February 10, 2007
Official American and Local Accounts Differ on Number, Identity of the Victims
By Ernesto Londono, Washington Post Staff Writer
BAGHDAD, Feb. 9 -- U.S. forces killed eight Kurdish soldiers and wounded nine others at an established checkpoint in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Friday, Kurdish officials said.
A U.S. military statement offered a differing account of the incident, saying that U.S. troops killed five Kurdish police officers after the men ignored orders to lay down their weapons and exhibited "hostile intention."
"What the American statement said is not true," said Kabir Goran, deputy director of the Mosul office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a Kurdish political party. "They are trying to cover the massacre that they carried out at that military point," he said in a telephone interview.
"It is impossible that we attack the Americans," he said. "Their patrols are passing by that point every day, and we never attack them."
The U.S. statement said the American soldiers were in the al-Karama neighborhood of Mosul early Friday preparing for a raid against members of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.
U.S. soldiers saw a group of armed men in a "bunker" near the building where the soldiers suspected insurgents were housed and instructed them to put down their weapons, the statement said.
"They were called out in Arabic and in Kurdish," said Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a U.S. military spokesman. "We had a Kurdish speaker out there."
A U.S. helicopter swooped in to take a closer look, and soldiers on board "observed hostile action from the bunker and exercised proper self-defense measures in response to the assessed threat," the statement said.
After the operation, the U.S. military turned over five bodies along with "nine detainees," to local police officials, the statement said. Garver said no insurgents were killed or wounded in the incident and no American troops were hurt.
Also Friday, the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group, issued a statement and released a video purporting to show the downing of a large transport helicopter that crashed Wednesday in Anbar province.
The video, posted on the Web site of the Search for International Terrorist Entities Institute, which tracks claims made by insurgent groups, shows a twin-rotor helicopter being struck by a missile. The helicopter wobbles in the air, catches on fire and slams into the ground.
Garver, the military spokesman, said investigators are skeptical of the authenticity of the video.
"We've seen the video, and there's nothing in the video that connects it to the helicopter crash on Wednesday," he said, referring to the incident in which a twin-rotor CH-46 Sea Knight came down, killing five Marines and two sailors. He said the account of the crash provided by the Sea Knight's wingman conflicts with what the video shows. Four military helicopters have crashed in Iraq this year, killing 23 service members. Five private security contractors aboard two civilian helicopters were killed in Baghdad Jan. 23 after they came under attack. One of those helicopters was downed.
On Jan. 31, another civilian helicopter came under attack but made an emergency landing, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. No one was injured in that incident, the official said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi police said a group of armed men wearing Iraqi National Guard uniforms kidnapped 13 men in a village north of Hilla on Friday morning. Eleven of the hostages were later killed, according to Capt. Muthanna Ahmed, a police spokesman in Babil province.
Police tracked the hostages and tried to free them, but had to retreat after being attacked with improvised explosive devices and small-arms fire, Ahmed said. Ten of the men killed were Sunnis and one was a Shiite, he said.
Also Friday, the U.S. military disclosed the deaths in combat Thursday of three U.S. soldiers in the western province of Anbar. Special correspondents Naseer Nouri and Saad al-Izzi contributed to this report.