U.S. warplanes bombed several Iraqi houses along the Syrian border Tuesday morning, killing a man described by the military as a “known terrorist” and destroying what officials called three insurgent safe houses.
A U.S. military statement gave no overall casualty estimate for the attacks on the remote border towns of Karabila and Husaybah, but residents estimated that more than 50 people were killed.
The first two attacks, the military said, successfully targeted a man known as Abu Islam. “Islam and several other suspected terrorists were killed” when a pair of bombs were dropped on a house in Husaybah at 6:20 a.m., a military statement said.
Intelligence reports indicated that several survivors of the first bombing fled about four miles southwest to a home in Karabila, the statement said. At 8:30 a.m., a pair of precision-guided bombs destroyed that house as well.
The military statement said there was little damage to surrounding buildings. Iraqi residents, however, said there had been massive property damage and high civilian casualties. Residents put the death toll for the bombings at 56, and said U.S. warplanes also attacked rescuers attempting to extract survivors from the debris.
The area near the Syrian border outside the insurgent hotspot of Qaim has witnessed heavy fighting in recent days between pro- and anti-government tribes. The clashes between the Albu Mahal and Karabla tribes have left dozens dead over the last week, said Omar Arrawi, a 35-year-old Qaim resident who was injured in the fighting.
Arrawi estimated that between the inter-tribal fighting and the regular U.S. raids, up to 85% of Qaim’s families had fled to nearby villages.
A Times special correspondent in Ramadi contributed to this report.