US says 70 insurgents killed in air strikes; witnesses say 39 were civilians

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Oct. 17, 2005
United States helicopters and warplanes bombed two villages near the restive Iraqi city of Ramadi, killing around 70 militants, the U.S. military said Monday.

Officials said all the dead were insurgents, though witnesses said at least 39 were civilians.

The violence on Sunday occurred a day after Iraq voted on – and apparently passed – a landmark constitution that many Sunnis opposed. On referendum day, a roadside bomb killed five U.S. soldiers in a vehicle in the Al-Bu Ubaid village on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi.

On Sunday, a group of around two dozen Iraqis gathered around the wreckage of the U.S. vehicle and were hit by the air strikes by U.S. warplanes, both the military and witnesses said.

The military said in a statement that the crowd was setting another roadside bomb in the location of the blast when F-15 warplanes hit them with a precision-guided bomb, killing around 20 people, described by the statement as “terrorists”.

But several witnesses and one local leader said the people were civilians who had gathered to gawk at or take pieces of the wreckage, as often occurs after an American vehicle is hit.”