U.S. presents more photos, denies it attacked Iraqi wedding

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The U.S. military introduced more photographs Monday to bolster its contention that American aircraft attacked a safehouse for foreign fighters near the Syrian border at Mogr el-Deeb -- not a wedding party, as claimed by Iraqi survivors and police and suggested by footage from the scene.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the coalition deputy chief of staff for operations in Iraq, introduced several new photographs Monday -- those of a house and white powder he said was being tested for drugs.

Kimmitt again showed pictures of items the military said it found at the attack site, including machine guns, rounds of ammunition, a Sudan Airways plane ticket, a Sudanese passport and battery packs associated with improvised explosive devises.

Kimmitt said, "What we found on the ground and our post-strike analysis suggests that what we had was a significant foreign fighter smuggler way-station in the middle of the desert that was bringing people into this country for the sole purpose of attacking to kill the people of Iraq."

U.S. officials suggest they recovered more than has been shown to reporters.

A videotape obtained on Sunday by Associated Press Television News shows a Mogr el-Deeb wedding party attended by Iraqis, some of whom were identified by an Associated Press reporter and photographer as survivors at a hospital. The tape does not show any weapons.

Separate video that APTN shot in Mogr el-Deeb a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans, and brightly colored beddings used for celebrations, scattered around a bombed-out tent.

Kimmitt again denied finding evidence that any children died in the raid.

Survivors said most of the dead were women and children, some of whose bodies were filmed by APTN at their burial in the city of Ramadi.

In other Iraq news:

A roadside bomb killed two British civilians traveling in an armored car near coalition headquarters in Baghdad. After the bombing, insurgents fired mortar rounds around Baghdad.

Clashes between U.S. forces and fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf killed at least one person and injured 20, a hospital official said. There were no reports of U.S. casualties.

A senior Shiite cleric warned that clashes between U.S. troops and the Shiite militia of al-Sadr could create enemies for America -- even after U.S. troops leave Iraq.

U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says Iraq's transitional government will reflect the country's "wide diversity." Brahimi is expected to announce the names of a prime minister, president, two vice presidents and a new Cabinet before the end of May.

Attorneys for Pfc. Lynndie England, one of seven soldiers accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq, said they will ask a military judge to throw out her confession. They contend military investigators pressed her to talk after she asked for an attorney.

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