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Smart bombs aimed at Saddam killed families
By David Blair in Baghdad
(Filed: 21/04/2003)

An air strike which American spokesmen were confident had killed Saddam Hussein in a Baghdad restaurant missed its target and hit nearby homes, killing at least eight people.

Three children were among the dead when four satellite-guided bombs were dropped by a B1 Lancer. A jagged crater 25ft deep, strewn with debris and smelling of rotting flesh, is all that remains of the two homes in the suburb of Mansur.

US intelligence claimed that this crater was the remains of the restaurant. It now appears that all four bombs hit homes leaving eight people dead.

About 20 yards from the crater, the al-Sa'ah restaurant was open for lunch yesterday. Its windows had been blown out and its customers had to eat outside, but the building appeared to have suffered no serious structural damage.

American intelligence said at the time of the bombing on April 8 that Saddam and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, had been meeting key aides in the restaurant. But far from being an elite restaurant patronised by the old regime, al-Sa'ah is a cheap establishment selling chicken lunches for about 1.

The B1 aircraft dropped two GBU31 bunker-buster bombs shortly after 3pm. After a three-second interval, another two 2,000lb bombs were dropped. American officials claimed that the restaurant had been "pulverised" and that, if Saddam had been inside at the time, he would not have escaped.

In fact, all four bombs missed. A black banner draped on the rubble behind the restaurant, the wreckage of the destroyed homes, mourns the deaths of four members of one family.

"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," it reads. "Mr Abid Abdul Masih Sami asks for your condolences after his loved ones were killed in the American bombing." The banner, which carries two white crosses, names the dead as Sanaa, 30, his wife, and their daughters Lana, Miriam and Lava, all under the age of 10.

Mr Sami worked as a security guard at the destroyed house. Its owners had left Baghdad before the strike. His family lived in a small, adjacent outhouse. Mr Sami was out when the bombs fell. He returned to find the smoking crater where his home had stood.

A similar banner announced the deaths of four members of another family, who lived in the second destroyed home. Salma Amin, 50, was killed with her sons, Mohammed, 27, Saif, 24, and her daughter, Shams, 20. Neighbours said that Mohammed was engaged and that his fiancee had visited the house less than an hour before it was destroyed.

At least four other homes clustered around the lip of the crater suffered severe damage. The explosion uprooted a palm tree and hurled it through the wall of a neighbouring house.

Raad Jiburi, 52, lived a stone's throw from the crater. He was resting in his bedroom when the attack was launched. "I heard the sound of an aircraft but it was far away," he said. "Then I heard the bombs falling. The noise was like a machine working. It became louder and louder and then the explosion hit us."

The blast from the first detonation hurled Mr Jiburi off his bed and across the room. Three seconds later the second explosion threw him into the corridor.

"I could not see anything," he said. "Everything was black with dust. I could not hear anything. I went looking for my family, for my children." Every window in Mr Jiburi's home has been shattered and deep cracks criss-cross the walls.

He managed to flee the house with his wife Nawal, 42, their sons Haider, 22, and Ramala, nine, and their daughter Tamara, 26. His one-year-old nephew, Abdullah, was also in the house at the time. All escaped with minor injuries caused by flying glass.

Mr Jiburi said: "The idea that Saddam Hussein or his sons were ever here was a false idea. We never saw any of them here."

9 April 2003: Bombings 'fail to kill' Saddam

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External links  
 
Strike at Hussein left neighborhood shattered, angry [13 Apr '03] - Boston Globe
 
A gaping hole full of tough questions [9 Apr '03] - The Age, Melbourne