Kids became 'human torches'
31/03/2003 19:36 - (SA)
Janabiyah, Iraq - Bloodied school books and children's shoes lie amidst animal carcasses on the road leading to the Ismails' farm in this village on the south eastern edge of Baghdad.
The main building of this hamlet, accessible via a checkpoint manned by militiamen, has been levelled, the second burned out and the third partially destroyed.
A neighbour told an AFP journalist that two missiles fired by coalition warplanes on Saturday night caught five sleeping families living on the farm.
The raid left 20 people dead - eleven of them children, seven women and two men. Ten others injured in the attack were taken to hospital.
The victims have already been buried according to Muslim tradition, but the smell of death still permeates the farm: the bombing also cost the life of several of the farm's animals.
Littered amongst the rubble spread over the grass were carcasses of four cows, their eye, nose and mouth cavities blackened by swarms of flies. Two dogs, sheep and chickens lay motionless nearby.
"Five children were turned into human torches in this house because of the gas cylinders inside," one of the two survivors said, wondering how God spared him while four other family members were wounded.
"Their bodies protected me because I was in a corner," he mused.
A neighbour, with missile debris in his hands, said: "That is Bush's democracy. They want us to welcome them with flowers. Look what they've done to our families."
Civilian casualties in Baghdad and its outskirts have mounted since the US-led war to topple President Saddam Hussein's regime was launched on March 20.
The coalition has relentlessly bombed the southern rim of the city, where elite Republican Guard units are believed to be guarding the approach to Saddam's seat of power.
AFP journalists have witnessed five such incidents in which civilians were the primary victims of a coalition strike, reporting at least 70 dead and dozens of wounded.
Iraqi officials have said hundreds of civilians have been killed and wounded since the start of the war.
US and British war planners have declared their intent to minimise civilian casualties and accuse the Iraqi leadership of deliberately placing military targets such as weapons and ammunition in residential neighbourhoods.
They have also suggested that some of the blasts might have been the result of misguided Iraqi anti-missile missiles. - Sapa-AFP