Baghdad blitz kills 250: Iraq
March 22 2003
Up to 250 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 207 wounded during the massive British and US bombing blitz on Baghdad overnight, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has said.
The casualties, who were being cared for in five different hospitals around the capital, were "hit in their homes", Sahaf told a news conference today.
"I invite you to visit them and ask them how and where they were hurt," he said, maintaining Iraq's rejection of the coalition's insistence it is striking only the regime and the military.
Sahaf's comments have been backed up by a French human shield, who said many Iraqi citizens were injured during the strikes.
"There has been heavy bombing all around the city and many buildings have been destroyed," Frenchwoman Francoise Rofe, 59, said from the human shield office in central Baghdad.
"Many buildings are on fire around us and we see smoke from everywhere."
Ms Rofe said it was difficult to leave the Hotel Palestine, which houses the office.
She said flying debris, including parts of bombs and missiles, made it too dangerous to leave the building.
"We cannot move under all this bombing, glass flies everywhere," she said.
"There have been casualties but I can't tell you how many people."
Ms Rofe said she had seen ambulances carrying the injured to hospital during the night.
"Many people yesterday were injured, they are in hospital being treated for very important injuries," she said.
Most of the casualties were Iraqi women and children, she said.
Ms Rofe said she had not yet been in touch with the Australians acting as human shields in Baghdad, as they had stayed at different sites around the city overnight.
Australian human shields Donna Mulhearn, Rosemarie Gillespie, Patricia Moynihan, Ruth Russell and Michelle Pule stayed in Baghdad when the bombing began.
Rev Neville Watson, an Anglican minister from Perth, was also in the city carrying out humanitarian work as part of the Iraq Peace Team.
"The Australians will be quite safe and all the other people, we hope," Ms Rofe said.
- AFP, AAP