BAGHDAD ø The U.S. military expressed scorn at reports an air force attack targeted a 3 a.m. "wedding party" 10 miles from the Syrian border.
U.S. ground forces found 4-wheel drive vehicles, foreign passports, AK-47 rifles,
jewelry and cash in what they assert were the markings of a smuggling
Iraqi witnesses provided a different account. They said members of the
wedding party fired into the air during their celebration near Al Qaim, Middle East Newsline reported.
Within minutes, they said, a U.S. helicopter gunship fired missiles toward the building
where the celebration was purportedly being held.
U.S. officials dismissed claims that 42 people killed in an attack by a
U.S. Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship about 16 kilometers east of
the Syrian border were revelers attending a wedding.
The dead in the May 19 attack included at least 25 males of military
age, officials said. They said the area had long been under U.S. Air Force
"How many people go into the middle of the desert 10 miles from the
Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?"
Maj. Gen. James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, told a news
conference on Thursday. "Let's not be naive."
Officials said the 3 a.m. air attack near Al Qaim targeted a facility
used by Al Qaida-inspired insurgents and smugglers. They said U.S. forces
found foreign passports, money, weapons, satellite communications in the
"I mean, there were some buildings out in that area, but nothing that
could be associated with a town or a village," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt,
deputy director of coalition operations, said.
"The purposes that caused us
to conduct that operation in the middle of the barren desert in the early
morning of the hour, ø which is kind of an odd time to be having a
wedding ø against what we believed to be 34 to 35 men and less than a
handful of women, by a group in their four-by- fours, well away from any
town, in a known RAT line, which is being used by smugglers and foreign
fighters frequently, and other intelligence that we found on the ground,
pretty well convinces us that what got us there had a valid purpose."
Kimmitt said the U.S. military would investigate the circumstances of
the attack as well as the Iraqi casualties. He said he could not reveal many
details of the air force strike for operational reasons.