Iraqis inspecting the damage left by U.S. airstrikes in western Iraq on Sunday challenged American assertions that 40 insurgents were killed, saying there were no guerrillas in the area.
“There were no mujahedin or armed men in the area. The planes attacked indiscriminately,” said one man, who did not give his name, as he inspected the rubble of a house.
How many people may have died, or their identities, remained unclear. Residents would not let a cameraman film two of the houses that were hit.
The U.S. military said Saturday that seven precision airstrikes on the outskirts of the town of Karabilah, near the Syrian border, killed insurgents who had been stopping vehicles at gunpoint and threatening Iraqi civilians.
The military said there were no reports of civilian casualties after the U.S. troops fired on large groups of insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and AK-47 assault rifles.
“The target was more of a compound with scores of armed men. No women or children were observed the entire day,” a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday. He said troops would not be going to the site to sift through the rubble.
Television footage did not reveal whether the buildings damaged in the airstrikes had been occupied by guerrillas or civilians during the attack. No bodies were visible in the footage. Residents said three people had already been buried.
Hamdi Alusi, chief of the nearby Qaim hospital, said three civilians from houses in the nearby district of Rumana were brought in wounded after the airstrikes. The victims included a 12-year-old boy who later died. The U.S. military spokesman said Rumana was not targeted during or after the air attacks.
“These are children’s clothes,” said one man, picking up a shirt from the rubble left by the attacks.