US air strike kills insurgent in Basra

Iraqi witnesses say at least three civilians among the dead.

US chopper Iraq 88 (photo credit:)
US chopper Iraq 88
(photo credit: )
A US air strike destroyed a house in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, killing an insurgent, the US military said Thursday. Iraqi witnesses and hospital officials said at least three civilians were among the dead. The Wednesday evening attack came as the Iraqi government has apparently shifted gears to slowly squeeze the gunmen instead of a full-scale assault as it maneuvers for control of Basra, the country's oil capital and a major commercial center of 2 million people. The US-led coalition directed "aerial fires" against enemy forces fighting Iraqi troops Wednesday near the insurgent stronghold of Kibla in Basra, said Lt. David Russell, a military spokesman. The military later confirmed an American plane conducted the attack. Witnesses said three people were killed and three others believed to be buried in the rubble, apparently leading to confusion over the number of casualties. "While we were preparing for evening prayer, US aircraft bombed this house. We rushed to save survivals but in vain," a neighbor identified only as Haj Juwad told APTN. "The father, mother and a young boy were killed and three others were buried under rubble. We evacuated two people and one is still under the rubble." Hospital officials said three bodies had been found, including two men and an elderly woman, and two women were wounded in the strike. The Kibla district where the attack occurred is a Shi'ite militia stronghold that has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the offensive that began March 25. The air strike comes as followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have accused the Iraqi army of violating an Iranian-brokered agreement to pull his fighters off the streets. Those complaints raised concern that fighting could flare again as the Iraqi government and Shi'ite groups maneuver for control of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad.