U.S.: No evidence of wedding at attack site
Suicide blast targets Iraqi minister
CNN      May 22, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Dozens of people killed in a U.S. attack in the Iraqi desert Wednesday were attending a high-level meeting of foreign fighters, not a wedding, and photos shown to reporters in Baghdad support that belief, according to the senior coalition military spokesman.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said six women were among the dead, but there is no evidence any children died in the raid early Wednesday near the Syrian border.

Coalition officials have said that as many as 40 people were killed in the attack.

He said that video showing dead children killed was actually recorded in Ramadi, far from the attack scene.

An Iraqi man interviewed by The Associated Press as the bodies of women and children were unloaded from a truck for burial said they had gathered for a wedding celebration when they were attacked.

"There may have been some kind of celebration," Kimmitt said.  "Bad people have celebrations too.  Bad people have parties too."

Kimmitt said that troops did not find anything -- such as a wedding tent, gifts, musical instruments, decorations or leftover food -- that would indicate that a wedding had been held.

Most of the men there were of military age, and there were no elders present to indicate a family event, he said.

What was found, he said, indicated the building was used as a waypoint for foreign fighters crossing into Iraq from Syria to battle the coalition.

"The building seemed to be somewhat of a dormitory," Kimmitt said.  "You had over 300 sets of bedding gear in it.  You had a tremendous number of pre-packaged clothing -- apparently about a hundred sets of pre-packaged clothing; (It is) expected that when foreign fighters come in from other countries, they come to this location, they change their clothes into typical Iraqi clothing sets."

At Saturday's briefing for reporters in Baghdad, Kimmitt showed photos of what he said were binoculars designed for adjusting artillery fire, battery packs suitable for improvised explosive devices, several terrorist training manuals, medical gear, fake ID cards and ID card-making machines, passports and telephone numbers to other countries, including Afghanistan and Sudan.

None of the men killed in the raid carried ID cards or wallets, he said.  "We feel that that was an indicator that this was a high risk meeting of high level anti-coalition forces.  There was a tremendous number of incriminating pocket litter, a lot of telephone numbers to foreign countries, Afghanistan, Sudan and a number of others."

Kimmitt said while the location was purported to be a sheep ranch, there was no evidence of ranching activities and no livestock.

He said that the coalition would continue to have an open mind about what might have happened, and he conceded there were some inconsistencies still to be worked out.

"The more that we look at intelligence, more we dig in, more we are persuaded no wedding," Kimmitt said.

"We had significant, multiple sources of intelligence" before ordering the raid, he said.

Blasts rock Baghdad

A suicide car bomb exploded Saturday morning outside the Baghdad home of Iraq's deputy interior minister, killing six Iraqis and wounding at least 10 others -- including the minister and his wife -- an Iraqi police official said.

The death toll included three Iraqi government bodyguards and a civilian who were outside of Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Jabbar Yousif's home, coalition officials said.

The bomber was also killed in the blast

Shortly after 8 a.m. (midnight ET) the suicide bomber drove by Yousif's house in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Baladiyat and detonated the car as the deputy minister was leaving, police sources said.

Yousif and his wife received non-life-threatening injuries, security officials on the scene told CNN. Witnesses said Yousif's face was covered in blood.

Seven mortar rounds landed north of downtown Baghdad Saturday afternoon, slightly wounding two U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi civilian, according to Coalition military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.

The soldiers were treated for their injuries and returned to duty, Kimmitt said.

Other developments

  • The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council on Friday issued a statement condemning the U.S.-led coalition forces and Iraqi police for raiding the home of Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the council, this week. U.S. intelligence officials on Friday said Chalabi, who has ties to senior Pentagon officials, gave intelligence secrets to Iran so closely held in the U.S. government that only "a handful" of senior officials know them.
  • A senior U.S. official confirmed on Friday that the U.S. military operated a secret interrogation facility at or near Baghdad International Airport. The site had not been previously disclosed. U.S. Special Forces participated in running the site, he added. Two other intelligence experts have confirmed the existence of another interrogation facility as well.
  • The U.S. Army has investigated the deaths of 37 prisoners who were being held by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon officials revealed on Friday. Nine of the cases are being investigated as homicides.