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Monday, September 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

U.S. airstrike exacts bloody toll

By Seattle Times news services

Ammar Omar, right, and his brother Yasser Omar look after their father, Omar Mahmoud, left, at their apartment on Haifa Street in Baghdad, Iraq, yesterday. Mahmoud's trousers are soaked with the blood of his brother, who was seriously injured when a U.S. helicopter fired at a disabled Bradley fighting vehicle, killing as many as 13 Iraqis.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq — As many as 13 of the people killed in yesterday's violence in Iraq's capital died when a U.S. helicopter fired on a disabled and abandoned U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle as Iraqis swarmed around it, cheering and throwing stones and firebombs. Maimed and lifeless bodies of young men and boys lay in the street as the stricken U.S. vehicle was engulfed in flames and smoke.

The Bradley had been rushing down Haifa Street, a major traffic artery near the U.S.-protected Green Zone, to assist a U.S. patrol when it was disabled by a car bomb, the U.S. military said. Two Bradley crewmen were wounded by the bomb and four were injured by grenades and small-arms fire as they fled the vehicle, the military said.

With the soldiers gone, jubilant fighters, curiosity seekers and boys swarmed around the burning vehicle. Fearing the crowd would loot the vehicle of weapons and ammunition, U.S. troops called for air support, and as U.S. Army helicopters flew over the burning Bradley "they received small-arms fire from the insurgents in vicinity of the vehicle," a military statement said.

One helicopter "fired upon the anti-Iraqi forces and the Bradley preventing the loss of sensitive equipment and weapons," the statement said. "An unknown number of insurgents and Iraq civilians were wounded or killed in the incident."

The military statement said the helicopter did not shoot directly at the crowd surrounding the vehicle because the "air crew could not discriminate between armed insurgents and civilians on the ground."

"The primary mission was to destroy the vehicle," a U.S. military spokesman said.

The airstrike was captured on film when a correspondent for an Arabic-language television network was mortally wounded by shrapnel from the strike in the midst of taping a report.

Reporter Mazen al-Tumeizi, 25, a Palestinian who moved to Iraq with his family six years ago, was talking into the camera, with flames and bystanders in the background, when a sharp blast buckled him forward.

The camera swung away with blood on the lens, as al-Tumeizi yelled, "I am dying. I am dying."

Compiled from The Associated Press, Knight Ridder Newspapers and the Chicago Tribune.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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