| A father carries his badly burnt baby son to safety in the Zaafaraniya neighbourhood near Baghdad on Saturday. (Reuters)
Zaafarniya (Iraq), April 26 (Reuters): A distraught Iraqi man said his family was killed today when a rocket shot out of an exploding arms dump in the southern outskirts of Baghdad and destroyed their home.
Tamir Kalaal said he survived only because he was away from home when the missile struck, killing his wife, father, brother and 11 other relatives.
“I am the only one that survived. All I have left is her,” Kalaal said, sobbing and pointing to his one-month-old daughter. An elderly woman, Hasna Aboud, said she had relatives among the dead. “George W. Bush and Saddam are both criminals,” she said. “First we had Saddam and then we were given Bush. What did we do to deserve this'”
US forces said unknown attackers fired “incendiary devices” into the cache, setting off a fire and a series of explosions.
Hundreds of people gathered to watch a bulldozer shift the rubble of four houses at the site where Kalaal’s family was killed. Mattresses, clothes and sheets were strewn among mangled metal bars and blocks of concrete.
Residents said US forces had been packing vehicles with confiscated Iraqi weapons over the last three days and detonating them. Some believed US efforts to destroy ammunition today had gone wrong.
But Col John Peabody, an army engineer, rejected the accusation, saying his unit had been guarding the cache for a week and had not destroyed any ammunition during that time. The neighbourhood, surrounded by factories, consists largely of two-storey sand-coloured concrete houses.
“Those Americans did this,” Kalaal said, shaking with rage amid the rubble of his home.
“Saddam was a butcher, and now this. This is a residential area. Why are the Americans blowing up weapons near us'” said Hussein Hafez, a 57-year-old resident. “We dug out six people who died, with our own hands,” Nassir Abdelrahman said. “The Americans are the worst human beings on earth.”
A group of women in black shawls stood near the destroyed homes, weeping uncontrollably.
In the distance stood a tank belonging to US troops who overthrew Saddam Hussein in a three-week war launched on March 20.
Some houses had chunks missing from their walls, and witnesses at the scene said unexploded rockets were still lying in the rooms of some buildings. Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis carried a baby aged about nine months from a damaged house surrounded by burning buildings to a US military checkpoint, where Army medics treated the child.
Mucher Sabor Hassun, wearing a white robe spattered with blood, said he had been praying when the rocket hit. Then we couldn't see anything, we couldn't hear anything. We carried out the dead bodies with our hands.”