Iraq: US air strike wipes out civilian family

US pilots targeting a farmhouse in the northern town of Baiji where they apparently believed insurgents had taken shelter killed a family of 12, Iraqi officials said Jan. 3. The dead included women and children whose bodies were recovered in the nightclothes and blankets they had been evidently sleeping in. The Pentagon says that it does not count civilian deaths from US attacks, and that investigating deaths caused by any one strike is impractical in dangerous insurgent areas.

A US military statement said that an unmanned drone detected three men digging a hole in a nearby road. Insurgents regularly bury bombs along roads in the area. The three men were tracked to a building, which US forces then hit with precision-guided missiles, the statement said. (Boston Globe, Jan. 4)

On Jan. 4, insurgents ambushed a convoy of 18 tanker trucks being escorted by security forces to Baghdad from the refinery in Baiji, killing a driver. In a separate attack, rebels torched three tanker trucks just north of Baghdad. Deliveries of petrol and other refined products from Baiji had only resumed earlier this week after truck drivers walked off the job for nearly a fortnight to protest insurgent death threats. They only agreed to return to work after the authorities agreed to provide military escorts for tanker convoys.

Also Jan. 4, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a Shi’ite funeral procession in the small town of Mukdadiyah. The bomber walked up to a group of about 100 mourners burying the victim of a drive-by shooting before detonating his bomb at the graveside. At least 34 people died and 48 were wounded in the attack. The funeral was for a bodyguard who died in an attack on a local official of the Dawa party of outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

In other violence, at least two car bombs exploded in Baghdad. One blew up outside a police precinct issuing identity cards in a Shi’ite neighborhood of north Baghdad. Five people were killed and 13 wounded, according to an initial toll. Another car bomb exploded in south Baghdad as police commandos drove by. Two commandos and one civilian were killed and 11 people wounded, security officials said. (Pakistan Daily Times, Jan. 5)

The London Times said gunmen ambushed a convoy of 60 fuel tankers, destroying 20 of them and disrupting efforst to ease fuel shortages. The co-ordinated violence suggested a renewed campaign by Sunni insurgents after a brief truce called to allow Sunnis to vote in the Dec. 15 elections. (London Times, Jan. 4)

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