US Bomb Damage and Civilian Casualties in Baghdad
An eyewitness account of the March 22-26 bomb damage by US members of the Iraq Peace Team
April 4, 2003
|A woman near the ruins of her bombed home. Credit: BBC|
BAGHDAD -- On March 26 at 3:00 p.m., Kathy Kelly and an Italian journalist, Juliana, drove to a section in north Baghdad because Juliana had just learned (through a Reuters report) that a market place had been bombed near the Ministry of Trade shopping center. About three blocks beyond the shopping center, they saw a two-block stretch of two-story buildings on both sides of the road that were blackened and damaged, but showed no evidence of having been directly hit by a bomb targeting a specific building.
They counted 13 cars that were completely demolished. There were two shallow craters on either side of the shoulder of the intersection. Another journalist suggested that the bomb may have been an anti-personnel bomb. The bomb hit at approximately 1:00 p.m. today.
NAEEMI FAMILY HOME
On March 25, several IPT members, including Jooneed Jeeroburkhan and others, visited the two-story yellow brick house of the Naeemi family, in the Al Khadra district of East Baghdad, a heavily residential neighborhood.
The house had been hit by a bomb around 7:30 p.m., Saturday evening, on the third day of continuous US bombing. The bomb hit the left side of the house, making a huge hole in the wall of the children's room. The two children are brothers aged nine and seven. The floor of the room caved in. Only some of the iron rods inside the concrete were left hanging over the room below.
Bricks and debris littered the adjacent plot, covering the vegetable garden. Two banana trees were chopped by the blast. The windshield of a red car parked in front of the house was blown to pieces. Inside the house, potted plants still rested on the steps of the concrete staircase. But books and toys from the damaged rooms were piled together in a corner at the top of the stairs. Broken wooden beds and other furniture had been placed in front of the house to enable clean up of the debris, especially shattered glass.
According to Samir Mahmood Ahmad, 60, whose adjacent house had suffered huge cracks in its walls, his family and the Naeemis, about 15 people in all, were together chatting in another room when the bomb hit. Mrs Ahmad and Mrs Naeemi are sisters. "We all managed to rush out through the door. Luckily no one was injured, but the children are in a state of shock. They panic at the least noise. My brother in law has taken them to live with relatives and with other children," said Samir.
Debris from the bombs had already been taken away by army security, "in case they contained radioactive material," witnesses said.
NAHRAWAAN FARM HOUSE
On March 25, several IPT members visited, including Jooneed Jeeroburkhan and others, visited a farm house in the Nahrawaan district, near the Diyala bridge to the north-east of Baghdad. The farm-house was hit by a bomb on Monday afternoon, around 4:05 PM, Day 5 of the bombing raids and US invasion of Iraq. Three people were killed on the spot. One was an eight-year-old girl named Fateha Ghazzi, a newly-wed sixteen-year-old bride, Nada Abdallah, and a twenty-year old woman, the sister of the lady of the house.
Eight were injured, hit by shattered glass, shrapnel and flying debris. They were suffering from severe lacerations on the head, arms, legs, chest, and on the sides, according to Dr April Hurley, of the IPT, who was present in the emergency ward of Baghdad's Al Kindi hospital when they were brought in. She returned to the hospital on Tuesday to visit the victims and compile facts about them. "The young groom, in his late 20's, could not stop crying, not from his injuries but from the loss of his young wife," said Dr Hurley. "A young boy, Amer, is among the injured but he will pull through," she added.
According to the neighbours, who rushed in as we arrived to visit the site on Tuesday, the house belonged to farmer Ajmi Abdullah Ahmad, who was hosting two Baghdadi families who had come to get some rest from the US bombings of the city. One of them was the newly-wed couple, who had come for their honeymoon. Ahmad Ajmi, the seventeen-year-old son of the farmer, was the only one to escape unscathed from the explosion.
He said he was on the dirt road that runs in front of the house, high above the surrounding fields, when the bomb hit. "It was 4.05 PM and everybody was having tea in the living room on the ground floor after the mid-afternoon prayers. I heard the blast, turned around and saw the top floor crumble and debris flying in a cloud of dust. Then I heard the shrieks," he said, still shaking from the experience.
A neighbor, Kahtaan Hassan Salmaan, said that Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery had been firing and had probably hit a US plane on a bombing raid. "Another plane flowing the first one then dropped three bombs, and one scored a direct hit on the house, the other two falling in the fields farther away," he said. The roof of a stable beside the house collapsed, killing the cow that was tethered inside.
Traces of dried blood from the victims dot the path from the house to the parking space in front where they were placed in the vehicles that drove them to Al Kindi Hospital. The wooden coffins made to carry the dead still lie on the blood-caked back of a pick-up truck.
Debris from the bombs had already been taken away by army security, "in case they contained radioactive material," witnesses on both sites said. At this site, one small square aluminium box with holes in it had the word VOLEX marked on the inside.
KARADAT MIRYAM MIXED RESIDENTIAL-COMMERCIAL
On March 24, several IPT members were taken on a tour of sites that have been bombed recently. These sites included one entire block in the Karadat Miryam district that included three- and four-floor buildings with commercial storefronts on the ground floor and residential dwellings on the upper floors.
No military or governmental sites were noticed nearby. Almost all of the windows and frames and the iron gates that covered windows in these buildings had been knocked out on all floors. At least some injuries likely resulted from the tremendous blast(s) that caused this extensive damage.
HADY AL-KHADRA TWO-STORY HOME
On March 24, an IPT team went to a home that had been hit by what appeared to be a missile. The house was a 2-story home in the Hady Al-Khadra neighborhood. The weapon came through the roof and landed in a second-floor room that appeared to be a bedroom. There was what seemed to be a picture on the wall of some female pop star.
The team was unable to meet any of the family who were in the home at the time of the attack; they are now staying with family members. A brother of the owner gave us an account, which was recorded in Arabic and will be translated later. He said the weapon hit about 7:30pm on Saturday, March 22, as the family was eating dinner, or getting ready for dinner. There were no serious injuries even though there were 8 people in the home at the time.
ALYARMOUK HOSPITAL - MARCH 23
On March 23, several IPT members, including Doug Johnson, Robert Turcotte, and Jooneed Jeeroburkhan went to the Alyarmouk hospital. This university teaching hospital, one of the largest and most modern in Iraq, is one of three medical centers prepared by the authorities to receive victims of the American attack; the two others are Al Mansur and Al Kindi hospitals. Many foreign doctors and surgeons, Americans included, are in Bagdad to offer their services to these hospitals in the war context.
One of the patients was Rahab Wedad Mohammad, age 25,who had just come out of surgery under general anesthesia. Her right cheek was swollen and her right forearm was heavily bandaged. According to the lady doctor, she had severed tendons which they had to sew back, together with nerves and blood vessels, in the women's section of the hospital.
According to answers to our questions, Rahab was at her home, in the residential district of Hayy Jamiya, when a bomb hit nearby. It was Saturday night, on the third day of US bombing, and she was hit by shrapnel that severed the tendons on her right arm.
Zaha Seheil lay quietly on a bed opposite. She is six years old. The doctor said that she was hit in the back, suffering spinal injury that has made her paraplegic.
In the men's section, Rusul Salim Abbas, 10-years-old, had been hit by shrapnel in the chest and on the right hand. That was on Friday night, when the bombing was the heaviest for four hours continuously. "He went to close the door when he was hit", says Salim, his father, seated on the edge of his bed.
Salah Mehdi, aged 33, was walking on the street Saturday night in the residential district of Amariya when a missile exploded nearby. "I just saw a huge fireball and I lost consciousness," he says with difficulty. He had been hit by shrapnel in the stomach, on the right hand and on the right ear.
On the next bed, Omar`Ali, 12-years-old, was one of 12 members of his family injured Friday night in the residential district of Al Shorta when a bomb hit near their house. There also also Majid Mahmoud, aged 57 and father of two, injured the very first night of bombing, and Hussein Jassim Fleh, aged 36 and father of a young daughter, injured Saturday night in the back, and on both arms and legs.
Was the shrapnel from US missiles and bombs, or from falling Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery? Given the delicate hospital conditions in which these visits were made, and the lack of expert ballistics evidence, it is difficult to tell what actually caused these injuries, and scores of others in hospitals across the country. "Whatever the origin of the shrapnel, Bush must bear full responsibility because he chose to impose this war on Iraq. These people would not have been injured otherwise," commented an Iraqi TV reporter filming the wounded.
RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD TWO BLOCKS WEST OF 14 JULY BRIDGE STREET
On March 22, Stewart Vriesinga and Wade Hudson toured a residential neighborhood about two blocks west of 14 July Bridge Street, between Amar Bin Yasir Street and Jamiaa Street. They drove by an eight-to-twelve-foot-deep crater in the middle of a wide, divided street that connected these latter two streets. Traffic in the westerly direction was blocked. They saw large gardens on both sides of this crater. No building was within eyesight of the crater.
Mr. Mohammed, IPT's principal driver, said that the gardens were not public parks, but private gardens associated with private homes, one of which is owned by an uncle of his. Around the corner on Jamiaa Street, many smaller homes had had all of their front windows blown out, presumably by a blast from the bomb that created the crater. Although this incident does not suggest either the strong possibility of civilian injuries or major damage to civilian infrastructure, it does illustrate once again that some bombs either do not hit their intended target or are directed to non-military targets.
On March 22, April Hurley, Zehira Houfani, and Robert Turcotte saw, around the corner from a street with buildings that appeared to be governmental offices, a whole block of mixed residential-commercial units with almost all of their windows knocked out.
The Voices in the Wilderness' Iraq Peace Team is a group of international peaceworkers remaining in Iraq through the war, in order to be a voice for the Iraqi people in the West. The Iraq Peace Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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