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U.S. Friendly Fire Kills 17 Kurds

U.S. Friendly Fire Kills 17 Kurds

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IRBIL, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. aircraft mistakenly bombed a convoy of allied Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 17 Kurdish fighters and wounding 45, including a brother of the man who runs half the Kurdish enclave, a spokesman for the leader's party said.

The bombing came when Kurdish "peshmerga" fighters and U.S. Special Forces called in airstrikes during heavy fighting with Iraqi forces at a strategic crossroads south of Irbil, the party official said.

U.S. Friendly Fire Kills 17 Kurds


Hoshyar Zebari, a senior member of the governing Kurdistan Democratic Party, said two or three Americans may have been wounded, but he "didn't think" any were killed.

Among the wounded was Wajy Barzani, younger brother of KDP leader Massoud Barzani, who controls the western sector of Kurdish autonomous enclave.

The younger Barzani was treated in intensive care and then flown out by U.S. helicopter en route to a hospital in Germany, Zebari told reporters at a hospital in Irbil where the wounded were taken. But he gave no details on his injuries.

Three senior KDP military commanders, Saeed Abdullah, Abdul Rahman and Mamasta Hehman, also were among the injured.

The bombing "will not undermine our resolve to work together," Zebari said of the alliance with the U.S. military against the forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Massoud Barzani and the entire top ranks of the KDP were at the hospital, along with U.S. officers. The Americans' military vehicles were parked outside the hospital where a huge throng had gathered at the entrance. Relatives of the wounded were escorted through the crowds.

One U.S. officer said no American casualties were at the hospital and that he did not know if Americans were injured.

U.S. Special Forces have been working alongside Kurdish fighters, helping plan the assault against Iraqi forces in the north and calling in airstrikes to support the Kurds' advance into Baghdad-controlled territory.

Zebari said the friendly fire bombing took place during "serious fighting" near Dibagah, 25 miles south of Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region and center for KDP rule.

They called in close air support, he said, and "two U.S. planes mistakenly bombed" the convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles, which was stationary at the time, Zebari said.

British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent John Simpson reported from the scene of the incident, saying the convoy contained between eight and 10 cars, two of which carried U.S. Special Forces troops.

"This is just a scene from hell here," Simpson said. "All the vehicles on fire, there are bodies burning around me, bodies lying around, bits of bodies on the ground. ... The Americans saw this convoy and they bombed it. They hit their own people."

The BBC said Simpson was wounded in the leg by shrapnel.

Zebari said the BBC crew was not "embedded" but was traveling along with the convoy.

The Kurdish and American force apparently had pushed the Iraqis out of Dibagah, which is on a key road between the major Baghdad-controlled cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, and control of it could be a pivotal victory.

But after the bombing accident, the convoy pulled back. The outcome of the battle was not immediately clear.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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