At Abu Sifa near the Iraqi town of Balad, the U.S. occupying Army was reported to have executed 11 Iraqi civilians, among which were four children and a six-month-old baby.
The accusations made in a report prepared by the Iraqi policed and published by the Knight Ridder news agency, coincided with the launch of investigations by the U.S. navy into similar crimes, including one that took place in November last year, in which U.S. marines killed 15 Iraqi civilians in Haditha.
But the Abu Sifa incident appears to be the most serious of all, as the accusations were included in an official police report signed by Iraqi officers.
The report for March 15 stated that "American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including five children, four women and two men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."
As expected the U.S. military rejected the police report findings, claiming that Abu Sifa raid killed only four people.
"A battle damage assessment, the initial reports, said that what they saw were four people killed - a woman and two children and an enemy - and they detained an enemy," Major Tim Keefe, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad claimed.
But here is the true story of what happened in Abu Sifa, the scene of one of the most horrific crimes carried out by the “liberating” Army of the U.S. since the war was launched in 20 March 2006, as reported by The Sunday Times.
33-year-old security officer, Khalaf, was guarding oil pipelines when he saw a U.S. helicopter hovering near his home. The helicopter landed and quickly the U.S. occupation forces raided the house owned by Khalaf’s brother Fayez.
Khalaf, trying to escape the bullets the troops were firing, ran from his house and hid in a nearby grove of trees.
Khalaf saw the forces as they stormed his brother’s house, and later heard the screams of the women and children.
“Then there was a lot of machinegun fire,” Khalaf said. The sound of firing was then followed by explosions before the soldier were seen leaving the house.
After the troops left, Khalaf started searching through the ruins of his brother’s house for the family bodies.
Khalaf’s account was confirmed by a neighbour, Hassan Kurdi Mahassen, who also heard the sound of the helicopters and saw the U.S. troops storming Fayez’s home.
After the soldiers left after apparently dropping several grenades that almost completely destroyed the house, Mahassen said, villagers went to the house searching in the rubbles were they “found them all (Fayez’s family) buried in one room”.
“Women and even the children were blindfolded and their hands bound. Some of their faces were totally disfigured. A lot of blood was on the floors and the walls.”
Khalaf said he had found the body of his mother with her face unrecognizable. “She had been shot with a dumdum bullet”.
Time magazine was the first to report Abu Sifa massacre. The details of the magazine report are based a 10-week investigation into an incident last November.
Eyewitness accounts of rampaging attacks by U.S. forces are fuelling human rights activists’ concerns that the U.S. military commanders are failing to control military excesses in Iraq.
The Pentagon claims it has launched more that 600 investigations into criminal cases involving abuses by U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. Department of Defense claims also to have disciplined 230 soldiers.
But according to a study conducted by three human rights organisations based in New York, most of military personnel who were found guilty of abuse received only “administrative” discipline, which include as loss of rank or pay, confinement to base or periods of extra duty.
Of the 76 courts martial that the Pentagon claimed to have initiated, only few resulted in jail sentences of more than a year- the rest ended up with sentences of two, three or four months.
“That’s not punishment, and that’s the problem,” said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, which is compiling the study with two other groups.
“Our concern is that abuses in the field are not being robustly investigated and prosecuted, and that they are not setting an example with people who cross the line,” Sifton added.
“There is a clear preference by the military for discipline with administrative and non-judicial punishments instead of courts martial. That sends the message that you can commit abuse and get away with it.”
But with Abu Sifa massacre, and Haditha incident, not less horrific, the Pentagon seems to find it increasingly difficult in hiding violent excesses.
An investigation by Time into a November 19 2005 incident, in which U.S. marine armored vehicle struck a roadside bomb, the explosion of which resulted in the death of a 20-year-old lance-corporal, contradicted a marine communiqué issued the day following the incident claiming that the blast also claimed the lives of some 15 Iraqi civilians and that another blast targeting a U.S. convoy killed eight rebels.
The Time investigation found that civilians, including seven women and three children, were killed in a Marines rampage through Haditha and not by a roadside bomb.
“I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny,” One eyewitness told Time.
Later, a Pentagon probe into the incident confirmed that the Marines killed the 15 Iraqi civilians. However it termed the crime “collateral damage” and not.
Abu Sifa incident, which was supported by hospital autopsy reports, all asserting that victims had died from bullet wounds, comes to proves the falsity of the officers’ claim that Iraqi rebels carry out attacks targeting civilians in order to blame the occupation forces.