As revealed by a State Department diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last week, US forces committed a heinous war crime during a house raid in Iraq in 2006, wherein one man, four women, two children, and three infants were summarily executed.
The cable excerpts a letter written by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, addressed to then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. American troops approached the home of Faiz Harrat Al-Majma’ee, a farmer living in central Iraq, to conduct a house raid in search of insurgents in March of 2006.
“It would appear that when the MNF [Multinational Forces] approached the house,” Alston wrote, “shots were fired from it and a confrontation ensued” before the “troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them.” Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.
Alston’s letter reveals that a US airstrike was launched on the house presumably to destroy the evidence, but that “autopsies carried out at the Tikrit Hospital’s morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed.”
The details revealed in the cable are a valuable insight into how many of these house raids turn out. The raids, often carried out in the middle of the night, have become one of the primary strategies of the US war in Afghanistan, with tens of thousands orchestrated just in the last year.
In one notable and comparable incident in February of 2010, US Special Operations Forces surrounded a house in a village in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. Two civilian men exited the home to ask why they had been surrounded and were shot and killed. US forces then shot and killed three female relatives (a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenager).
Instead of calling in an airstrike to hide the evidence, US troops, realizing their mistake, lied and tampered with the evidence at the scene. The initial claim, which was corroborated by the Pentagon, was that the two men were insurgents who had “engaged” the troops, and the three murdered women were simply found by US soldiers, in what they described as an apparent honor killing. Investigations into the incident eventually forced the Pentagon to retract its initial story and issue an apology.
Civilian deaths are a common occurrence in these commonly occurring raid operations. In May, NATO killed another four civilians in a night raid, and another three in early August. No soldiers or US officials have been held to account.