US Air Strike kills 49 in Sadr City PKK Kills 17 Turkish Soldiers Turkey Shells Iraq

Ferit Demir reports (via The Scotsman):

‘ Kurdish rebels [of the PKK/ Kurdish Workers Party] killed at least 17 Turkish soldiers, wounded 16 others and took several hostage in an ambush near the Iraqi border yesterday . . .

Turkey’s military general staff said 32 rebels were killed in continuing clashes. Its artillery also shelled areas inside Iraq yesterday morning but no casualties were reported. In response to the ambush, [Turkish PM Tayyip] Erdogan said: “We are very angry. … Our parliament has granted us the authority to act and within this framework we will do whatever has to be done. The Turkish defence minister, Vecdi Gonul, speaking in Kiev after talks with the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said that 17 soldiers were killed, 16 injured and ten others were still missing. The PKK said it had taken a number of soldiers hostage. Asked if there would be a military response to those attacks, Mr Gonul said: “Not urgently. They are planning a cross-border [incursion].” “We’d like to do these things with the Americans.” Abdul Rahman Jaderji, a senior PKK official said the rebels had killed 40 soldiers. The pro-PKK Firat news agency, which is based in western Europe, said eight soldiers had also been taken hostage. ‘

So the US military went into Sadr City or the Shiite slums of East Baghdad in search of the leader of a “special group” or cell of the Mahdi Army whom they suspected of being part of a kidnapping -for- ransom ring. Then they took hostile fire from, well, hostile Shiite slum militiamen. The troops called in an air strike on the building from which the fire came. You can’t, obviously, avoid killing civilians if you bomb a heavily populated slum from the air. So the real question is how many civilians they killed this way. The Iraqi government maintains that the victims were mostly children and innocent non-combatants, and PM Nuri al-Maliki has ordered an investigation– to mollify the very angry Iraqi Shiites who saw the bombing as a war crime.

The US military did not catch the cell leader they were originally after.

The USG Open Source Center translates or paraphrases how the US air strike on East Baghdad was reported on the satellite news channels:

Al-Jazirah, Al-Arabiyah Highlight Civilian Deaths in US Operation in Baghdad
Iraq — OSC Summary
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Both [Aljazeera and Alarabiya] channels reported the US version of events, which states that US forces entered the area in pursuit of Al-Mahdi Army elements suspected of masterminding the abduction and murder of US soldiers, but were forced to open fire and call in air support when a bomb targeted them, ultimately killing 49 gunmen and no civilians. The channels, however, were more interested in the Iraqi version, which speaks of multiple civilian casualties.

Injured Iraqis (Al-Jazirah)

Al-Jazirah was the first to carry images of the aftermath of the operation in a video report it aired during its 1200 GMT newscasts. The report conveyed both the US and Iraqi accounts of the incident, but noted, against the backdrop of images of wounded citizens being treated in a hospital, that “regardless of what triggered the clashes, they ended in the killing and wounding of a total of 60 people. The US Army says it has no evidence that any of these people were civilians, and that coalition forces are doing their best to protect innocent civilians.” The report was repeated in later newscasts.

The report was followed by an interview with Iraqi Journalist Falah al-Sharqi, who said that Apache gunships attacked residential neighborhoods in Al-Sadr City “contrary to their claims of confrontations between the Al-Mahdi Army and US forces,” and insisted that the entire operation targeted only civilians. Al-Jazirah’s anchorwoman commented: “Indeed, these pictures (of wounded civilians) support what you are saying, contrary to what the US Army said about there not being any civilian victims in this operation.”

Mourning Iraqis (Al-Arabiyah)

Al-Arabiyah reported civilian casualties as early as 0800 GMT, and carried its first video report in its 1300 GMT newscasts. In it, the channel showed an Iraqi man saying: “We were asleep when US forces came here with their planes and attacked us. We were sleeping. We have no weapons or any bad people here.” The report showed Iraqis examining damage to their homes and a man mourning his children and said: “The US forces said that the raid led to the death of a group of gunmen, but it did not mention the death of civilians and children.” It also notes that officials in the Al-Sadr trend deemed the operation “barbaric.” The report was repeated in later newscasts.

Al-Jazirah carried a second report in its 1800 GMT newscast. The report was an expansion on the first one and contained footage of two dead infants, and it noted that the US Army says it has no evidence of civilian casualties and is keen on protecting them, “words that the father of one of the two dead children would contest as he gazes upon the beds and pictures of his children” — the video shows a tearful man holding a picture of his children.
The footage used by both channels came from the same source and was virtually identical.

Al-Jazirah dedicated its “Behind the News” talk show to discussing tensions between the United States and the Al-Sadr trend. Iraqi analyst Dr Liqa Makki, a frequent guest on the channel, opens with the following remark: “As is known, Al-Sadr City is very crowded, and any bomb falling from the sky is destined to kill many, if not all, of the civilians in its blast area. What the Americans said is yet to be corroborated, but they always do this — they bomb civilian areas under the pretext of gunmen presence there.”

At 2039 GMT, Al-Jazirah interviewed Shaykh Salah al-Ubaydi, head of the media branch of the Martyr Al-Sadr Office, who maintained that there were no clashes with the Al-Mahdi Army, that US helicopters bombed residential neighborhoods on the outskirts of Al-Sadr City, and that most of the casualties were civilian.’

McClatchy adds:

‘Six dead bodies were found in Baghdad. 4 in Ameriya, 1 in Sadr, 1 in Sleikh.

Karbala

- Two mortar shells slammed into holy city of Karbala on Saturday, targeting a police center in the Saif Saad area and another building near a shrine yesterday night. One man was killed and two others were injured. Iraqi authorities imposed a curfew in fear of more attacks.

Mosul

- Gunmen killed Yousef Ibraheem, a coach of a local team, eastern Mosul today. . .

At the Global Affairs blog, Barnett Rubin looks at the way Afghan President Hamid Karzai finds himself caught between Iran and the US, and he tells us that the Iranians have explained exactly how they will reply to a US attack– with rocket attacks of their own on US bases. I.e. they will behave as Hizbullah did during the Israel war on Lebanon in summer of of 2006.

At the Napoleon’s Egypt Blog, a letter from the French admiral on the journey to Egypt and the exposed position of the French fleet.