U.S.: Iraq Missile Possibly Caused Deaths

Published March 27, 2003

| Associated Press

The U.S. military said on Thursday "it was entirely possible" that an Iraqi missile was responsible for the marketplace explosion in Baghdad that killed 14 civilians.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said there was an Iraqi missile battery near the neighborhood and that Iraqi has been using old missile stock fired with guidance systems turned off.

"We think it is entirely possible that this may have been an Iraqi missile that went up and came down," Brooks said.

He the United States had an air mission in the area but not in the neighborhood that was devasted by the explosion.

"We did have an air mission that attack some targets, not in that area but in an another area, and they did encounter some surface-to-air missile fire," Brooks told the daily briefing at the coalition headquarters.

Fourteen civilians were reported killed in the north Baghdad Shaab neighborhood in a blast that Iraqi officials blamed on cruise missiles.

Iraq's health minister said a total of 36 civilians were killed and 215 wounded in U.S. air strikes on Baghdad Wednesday. He accused the United States and Britain of deliberately targeting civilians to break the Iraqi people's will.

Fourteen civilians were reported killed in a northern Baghdad neighborhood in a blast that Iraqi officials blamed on cruise missiles.

Brooks said civilian injuries appeared to be concentrated in Shiite populations and "there may be a pattern" of Iraqis targeting that group, which is the majority in the country ruled by Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.

Photographs shown at the briefing included a damaged missile factory in Baghdad and a television satellite transmission facility that was knocked off the air.

Brooks agreed with British assessments that battlefield activities by Iraqi forces in the past day or so showed that Saddam Hussein was losing control over his forces.

Brooks concurred with the British charge earlier Thursday that Saddam's paramilitary forces were threatening regular troops with execution or threatening to kill their families if they did not fight.

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