BAGHDAD - An Iraqi couple was killed in their bed Saturday morning as their daughter slept between them when U.S. forces raided their home.
The U.S. military said that the raid, in the area of Hawija, just west of Kirkuk, was an Iraqi government approved operation against a wanted man and that the killings were in self-defense. But the family described the slayings of a modest farmer, his wife and the wounding of their daughter by U.S. forces as the three slept.
According to a U.S. military statement, at 2 a.m. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered the bedroom where the couple lay and the woman reached under the mattress. The soldiers told her multiple times to show her hands; when she didn't, they shot her, the statement said.
The woman's husband, Dhia Hussein Ali, jumped up and "physically attacked" the soldiers after his wife was shot, the statement said. The soldiers killed him in self-defense, the statement said. The couple's 9-year-old daughter, Alham, was injured during the attack.
After the killings a "high-powered pistol" was found under the mattress, the statement said. U.S. and Iraqi troops went to the house because they believed Ali was a member of Al Qaida in Iraq and later identified him as a wanted terrorist, the statement said. He had been detained at least once before by U.S. forces in a detention center in southern Iraq in 2004, his family said.
The U.S. military said the operation was "fully coordinated with Iraqi authorities (who were also present for the operation) and conducted with full respect for the Iraqi Constitution and the laws of Iraq."
After a security agreement took effect Jan. 1, the U.S. military can conduct operations on their own if Iraqi authorities approve them and they are coordinated with Iraqi authorities.
Ali Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, said he had no information on the raid.
Brig. Gen Abdel Kareem Khalaf, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told National Public Radio that no Iraqi forces were present at the raid, and he demanded an investigation. It was unclear if the raid was approved, he said.
"We have asked for a joint investigative committee plus we have asked for an explanation from the American side regarding what happened," he told NPR. "Up to now there were victims on the ground and we have to know why."
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In the small village where Dhia Hussein Ali lived, his children and his father questioned the reason for the raid. Ali was a modest farmer with a small fish pool where he raised the popular carp eaten in Iraq, they said. The man was a former officer in Saddam Hussein's army.
Omar Dhia Hussein, 14, was in shock Saturday night. He said in a telephone interview that in the morning he'd seen his parents' bodies side by side in their bed, the sheets covered in blood. The wall was covered with his father's blood, he said.
At 2 a.m., Omar said, he heard a bang of a percussion grenade. When he opened his eyes he saw American soldiers standing over him in the room where he slept with his two sisters. Except for an Iraqi interpreter there were no Iraqis with the Americans, he said.
The interpreter shouted at the young boy.
"You are hiding weapons," Omar recalled the interpreter saying. "Where are you hiding the weapons? You are terrorists, you are hiding weapons in that unfinished house. Confess!"
Omar began to cry and his sisters wept with him, he said. Then the American soldiers left and he heard gunfire next door. The soldiers carried Omar's wounded sister from the room and took the remaining four children, including Omar, to his uncle's home. Outside were at least four U.S. Humvees and two SUVs, Omar said. His grandfather, Hussein Ali, who lives next door saw no Iraqi soldiers, either.
After the Americans left, Omar and his sisters returned to their home with their grandfather. In his parents' bedroom, Omar said, he saw his father's body at the very edge of the right side of the bed, motionless and bloody.
His mother lay in the middle of the bed in a pool of her own blood. She'd been shot in the head, the family said.
"I will avenge my father's death," Omar said calmly Saturday evening.