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imperialism & war

US-Brits seen as "villains" after Iraqi civilians shot

S-British coalition seen as "villains" after Iraqi civilians shot dead
Thirty-three civilians, including children, were killed and 310 wounded in a US-British coalition bombing on the southern province of Babylon early Tuesday morning, a hospital director said.

A missile or bomb hit a residential area called Nader south of the city of Hilla, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Baghdad, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Meanwhile 15 members of a family were killed late Monday when their pickup was blown up by a rocket from an Apache helicopter near Hilla south of Baghdad, the sole survivor of the attack told AFP Tuesday.

Several injured children were taken to hospital, some seen lying on the floor due to the lack of beds.

Earlier Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf 19 people had been killed and more than 100 wounded since late Monday.

The checkpoint shooting -- the worst of its kind during the 13-day war -- occurred at Najaf, 150 kilometers (95 miles) south of Baghdad on Monday afternoon, US Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Owens said at operational headquarters in Qatar.

Commentators and officials agreed that the incidents, together with continual bombing on Baghdad, were likely to fuel vocal international opposition to the war and deal a severe blow to the coalition bid to win the trust of the Iraqi people.

"If such scenes become routine... the political war for Iraq could be lost even before the military one is won," the New York Times warned in an editorial.

The British government admitted for the first time Iraqi civilians may see US-British forces as villains not liberators, only hours before reports early Tuesday that American troops had fired on a civilian vehicles killing seven women and children.

"We know that for the moment we will be seen as the villains. We knew that from the reaction before the conflict started," Home Secretary David Blunkett told BBC television.

Owens said the victims were in a civilian vehicle that failed to stop at the military post despite repeated warning shots fired by US troops. Four people in the vehicle escaped unharmed.

"As a last resort, they (US troops) fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle," said Owens, adding that an investigation had been opened.

The Washington Post reported however that 10 civilians had been killed in the incident and quoted US Army 3rd Division Captain Ronny Johnson as shouting over the radio to his men after the shooting: "You just (expletive) killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot soon enough."

Baghdad also claimed that coalition warplanes had attacked a group of "human shields" including US nationals.

According to Iraqi officials, hundreds of civilians have been killed in the 13-day-old war.

With US troops on edge after a suicide car bomb attack Saturday near Najaf killed four soldiers, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva said it regretted the checkpoint incident and hoped US troops took "all the necessary measures" to warn the civilians before opening fire.

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