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US troops kill seven civilians, jets bomb 'torture chambers'

US troops in Iraq fired on a civilian vehicle at a checkpoint, killing seven women and children.

india Updated: Apr 01, 2003 20:15 IST

Coalition aircraft continued to pound Iraq, including an alleged torture chamber in Baghdad as US troops killed seven women and children at a checkpoint in southern Iraq.

US troops opened fire on a civilian vehicle at a military checkpoint in southern Iraq, killing seven women and children and wounding two, a US military spokesman said on Tuesday.

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The shooting occurred at a checkpoint manned by soldiers from the US Army's Third Infantry Division at Najaf, 150 kms south of Baghdad yesterday afternoon, Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Owens said.



He said the victims, women and children, were in a vehicle that failed to stop despite repeated warning shots fired by US troops. Four people in the vehicle escaped unharmed.

"As a last resort, they (US troops) fired into the passenger compartment of the vehicle," Owens said at US Central Command's forward planning base here.

"When soldiers opened the vehicle they found 13 women and children inside. Seven of the occupants were dead, two were wounded and four were unharmed.

TORTURE CHAMBERS TARGETED

The Iraqi National Olympic Committee office, long believed to house torture chambers, was among targets hit by US planes in overnight bombing around the country.

"Coalition aircraft used precision-guided munitions to target a regime office complex in eastern Baghdad," the US Central Command said. "The strike was executed to erode the command and control capabilities of regime leaders."

Iraq's Olympic committee is run by Saddam Hussein's older son Udai, who is believed to have tortured losing Iraqi athletes at the facility.

On Monday, coalition aircraft flew 1,000 missions over Iraq targeting four Republican Guard Divisions while blasting command, communications as well as air defence sites in Baghdad and northern Iraq, the Pentagon said.

Maj. Gen Stanley McChrystal said coalition troops had captured key bridges over the Euphrates river and were trying to isolate irregular forces in the towns of As Samawa and An Nasiriyah.

The air sorties targeted the Republican Guard's Medina, Hammurabi, Baghdad and Al Nida divisions.

In Kuwait Tuesday, a Patriot battery intercepted an incoming Iraqi missile, destroying it before it entered Kuwaiti airspace in southern Iraq, the official Kuwaiti news agency KUNA reported.

Also on Tuesday, US Marines shot dead an unarmed Iraqi at a checkpoint, the UK Press Association reported. It said the man's pickup truck was hit with bullets after it sped toward a coalition roadblock on the main highway outside the southern town of Shatra.

PLAN AGAINST SUICIDE BOMBERS

US commanders had now told troops to assume the worst and use a range of tougher tactics to hunt down Iraqi militia, reports said.

As part of a plan, drivers and passengers at checkpoints will now be ordered out of their vehicles with their hands up before being searched. Cars and trucks won't be allowed to cross through US and British convoys.

Vehicle blocking traffic will be rolled over. And if civilians with hands in their pockets approach troops and fail to respond, first to a shouted command and then to a warning shot, they will be killed.

"Everyone is now seen as a combatant until proven otherwise," a Pentagon official told the newspaper.

Also Tuesday, the British defence ministry said the number of British troops killed so far had risen to 26. A British soldier was killed Monday in southern Iraq while trying to dismantle munitions.

Iraqi officials said they had killed hundreds of coalition forces.

Coalition forces are now within about 45 km of Baghdad's outskirts, reports said.

First Published: Apr 01, 2003 09:13 IST