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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 17:50 GMT
US air strike hits Iraqi family
Corpse being carried from the collapsed house in Baiji
Women's and children's bodies have been pulled from the rubble
Several members of the same family, including women and children, have been killed in a US air strike that destroyed their home in northern Iraq.

There was confusion over the number of casualties, but local authorities in the town of Beiji, north of Tikrit, have confirmed at least six dead.

US forces said they acted after seeing three men suspected of planting a roadside bomb enter the house.

The raid has prompted anger among some local political leaders.

US military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Johnson said the men, who ran into the house after digging a hole, were assesed as a threat to civilians and military forces.

"An unmanned aerial vehicle... observed the would-be attackers as they dug a hole following the common pattern of roadside bomb emplacement," he told the AFP news agency.

Even if there had been, why didn't they surround the area and detain the terrorists instead?
Police Colonel Sufyan Mustafa
"The individuals left the road site and were followed from the air to a nearby building. Coalition forces employed precision guided munitions on the structure."

But he did not confirm the number of casualties or whether a roadside bomb has been found.

Local police chief Colonel Sufyan Mustafa said he believed there were no anti-US insurgents present in the house.

"Even if there had been, why didn't they surround the area and detain the terrorists instead?," he told the Reuters news agency.

'Historic crime'

Ghadban Nahd Hassan, 56, told AFP that 14 members of his family had been in the house when it was it bombed.

"I was with some friends in a small shop 100m away from the house when I heard the bombing at around 2130 (1830 GMT)," he said.

"I rushed over to see. My house was destroyed and there was smoke everywhere."

So far, the bodies of a nine-year-old boy, an 11-year-old girl, three women and three men have been found in the rubble, police said.

US forces frequently use air strikes in their battle against Iraqi insurgents, in an effort to minimise US casualties.

A local official of the biggest Sunni Arab political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, called for demonstrations.

"This is a historic crime and another catastrophe for the people of Baiji," he told Reuters.

"If there were gunmen or criminals in that house, is it right to blow up the whole family?"

Hussein al-Falluji, a lawyer and a national leader of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Accordance Front, said: "Once again the occupiers have shown their barbarism. They never learn from their mistakes... People's resentment is increasing."


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