Visions Of Life
Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to apologise
May 21 2004 5:42PM
Survivors describe wedding massacre as generals refuse to
Rory McCarthy in Ramadi
Friday May 21, 2004
The wedding feast was finished and the women had just led
the young bride and groom away to their marriage tent for
the night when Haleema Shihab heard the first sounds of the
fighter jets screeching through the sky above. It was
10.30pm in the remote village of Mukaradeeb by the Syrian
border and the guests hurried back to their homes as the
party ended. As sister-in-law of the groom, Mrs Shihab, 30,
was to sleep with her husband and children in the house of
the wedding party, the Rakat family villa. She was one of
the few in the house who survived the night.
"The bombing started at 3am," she said yesterday from her
bed in the emergency ward at Ramadi general hospital, 60
miles west of Baghdad. "We went out of the house and the
American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting
low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said.
She ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two
young boys, Ali and Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the
fields a shell exploded close to her, fracturing her legs
and knocking her to the ground.
She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm.
By then her two boys lay dead. "I left them because they
were dead," she said. One, she saw, had been decapitated by
a shell. "I fell into the mud and an American soldier came
and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill
me. My youngest child was alive next to me."
Mrs Shibab's description, backed by other witnesses, of an
attack on a sleeping village is at odds with the American
claim that they came under fire while targeting a suspected
foreign fighter safe house. She described how in the hours
before dawn she watched as American troops destroyed the
Rakat villa and the house next door, reducing the buildings
Another relative carried Mrs Shihab and her surviving child
to hospital. There she was told her husband Mohammed, the
eldest of the Rakat sons, had also died. As Mrs Shihab
spoke she gestured with hands still daubed red-brown with
the henna the women had used to decorate themselves for the
wedding. Alongside her in the ward yesterday were three
badly injured girls from the Rakat family: Khalood
Mohammed, aged just a year and struggling for breath, Moaza
Rakat, 12, and Iqbal Rakat, 15, whose right foot doctors
had already amputated.
By the time the sun rose on Wednesday over the Rakat family
house, the raid had claimed 42 lives, according to Hamdi
Noor al-Alusi, manager of the al-Qaim general hospital, the
nearest to the village.