- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

ISAHAQI, Iraq — U.S. forces flattened a house during a raid north of Baghdad early yesterday, killing 11 persons — mostly women and children, while insurgent attacks elsewhere left five dead, police and relatives said.

The U.S. military acknowledged the raid and said it caught one insurgent. It took place near Balad, about 50 miles north of the capital. But the military said only four persons were killed — a man, two women and a child.

Political leaders, meanwhile, remained deadlocked on the composition of a new government on the eve of parliament’s first session since the Dec. 15 elections. At 8 p.m., a driving ban went into effect in the capital that will last until 4 p.m. today, which has been declared a public holiday.

Authorities in the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, imposed their own six-day driving ban to protect pilgrims from a wave of sectarian killing.

The U.S. command announced the deployment of a battalion of at least 700 soldiers to Iraq from their base in Kuwait to provide extra security in the coming days for the pilgrimages connected to the holiday of Ashura and the convening of parliament. Tens of thousands converge for the religious commemorations, which drew increased attacks in 2004 and 2005.

Monday marks the end of the 40-day mourning period after the death of Imam Hussein in A.D. 680, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad. The day also marks the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

The decision to add the armored unit, perhaps for as little as 30 days, is in contrast to the Bush administration’s hopes to substantially draw down the U.S. military presence in Iraq. There are about 133,000 troops here.

Police Capt. Laith Mohammed, in nearby Samarra, said American warplanes and armor flattened the house and killed the 11 persons inside.

An AP reporter in the area said the roof collapsed. Eleven bodies, wrapped in blankets, were taken to the Tikrit General Hospital, relatives said.

Associated Press photographs showed the bodies of two men, five children and four other covered figures at the hospital accompanied by grieving relatives. The victims were covered in dust and bits of rubble.

Riyadh Majid, who said he was the nephew of the killed head of the family — Faez Khalaf — told AP that U.S. forces landed in helicopters and raided the home. Mr. Khalaf’s brother, Ahmed, said nine dead were residents of the house and two were visitors.

“The killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children,” Ahmed Khalaf said. “The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death.” The U.S. military said it targeted and captured an individual suspected of supporting foreign fighters for the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network.

“Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building,” said Tech. Sgt. Stacy Simon. “Coalition forces returned fire utilizing both air and ground assets.”

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