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Bombed Iraqi wedding video released
Monday 24 May 2004, 5:10 Makka Time, 2:10 GMT
A videotape depicting an Iraqi wedding just hours before US warplanes attacked it – killing 45 people – has been released.
Obtained by Associated Press Television News on Sunday, cameraman Yasir Shawkat Abd Allah filmed the arrival of the bride at a large goat-hair tent and children dancing to tribal songs.
The attack last Tuesday also killed the cameraman.
The US military says it is investigating the attack, which took place in the village of Makr al-Dib about five miles from the Syrian border, but that all evidence so far indicates the target was a safe house for foreign fighters.
"There was no evidence of a wedding: no decorations, no musical instruments found, no large quantities of food or leftover servings one would expect from a wedding celebration," Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said Saturday.
"There may have been some kind of celebration. Bad people have celebrations, too."
Military explanation doubts
But video that APTN shot a day after the attack shows fragments of musical instruments, pots and pans and brightly coloured beddings used for celebrations, scattered around the bombed out tent.
A reporter and photographer who interviewed more than a dozen survivors a day after the bombing, were able to identify many of them on the wedding party video - which runs for several hours.
APTN also travelled to Makr al-Dib, 250 miles west of Ramadi, the day after the attack to film what the survivors said was the wedding site.
A devastated building and remnants of the tent, pots and pans could be seen, along with bits of what appeared to be the remnants of ordnance, one of which bore the marking "ATU-35," similar to those on US bombs.
The singing and dancing seems to go on forever at the tent set up in the garden of the host, Rikad Nayaf, for the wedding of his son, Azhad, and the bride Rutbah Sabah.
The men later move to the porch when darkness falls, apparently taking advantage of the cool night weather.
Musician or militant?
Prominently displayed on the videotape was a stocky man with close-cropped hair playing an electric organ.
Another tape, filmed a day later in Ramadi and obtained by APTN, showed the musician lying dead in a burial shroud - his face clearly visible and wearing the same tan shirt as he wore when he performed.
Kimmitt said US troops who swept through the area found rifles, machine guns, foreign passports, bedding, syringes and other items that suggested the site was used by foreigners infiltrating from Syria.
The videotape showed no weapons, although they are common among rural Iraqis.
Kimmitt has denied finding evidence that any children died in the raid although a "handful of women" - perhaps four to six - were "caught up in the engagement."
"They may have died from some of the fire that came from the aircraft," he told reporters on Friday.
However, an AP reporter obtained names of at least 10 children who relatives said had died.
Bodies of five of them were filmed by APTN when the survivors took them to Ramadi for burial Wednesday. Iraqi officials said at least 13 children were killed.