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By LA Times

The U.S. military acknowledged Sunday that its soldiers had killed three unarmed civilians in the heavily secured Baghdad airport compound, contradicting its original report that the victims were criminals who had opened fire.

The statement, released late Sunday, expressed regret over the civilians’ deaths on June 25, but said, “Neither the soldiers nor civilians involved in the incident were at fault.”

Early today, 20 civilians were killed and 47 wounded by three female suicide bombers in eastern Baghdad as Shiite pilgrims marched to the Imam Kadhim shrine in west Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. The attacks happened a day before a religious festival marking the death of the revered Shiite figure, who died in 799.

In its statement on the June shooting, the U.S. Army said its soldiers had felt threatened when they saw a car speeding up a road toward them, and the driver did not heed warnings to stop.

The military said its June statement describing the dead as criminals was incorrect. Initially, some soldiers thought that someone in the car was shooting and that Iraqi police had found a weapon in the vehicle, the military said. However, no weapon was found and the passengers turned out to be a man and two women who worked at the airport bank.

“This was an extremely unfortunate and tragic incident,” Col. Allen Batschelet, the U.S. Army chief of staff in Baghdad, was quoted as saying. The tone was regretful, in contrast to the June statement, which advised: “When we are attacked, we will defend ourselves and will use deadly force if necessary. Such attacks endanger not only U.S. soldiers but also innocent civilians, including women and children, traveling the roadways of Iraq.”

Besides housing the capital’s civilian airport, the sprawling compound is home to myriad U.S. and Iraqi military bases. The complex has multiple search points and is one of the most secure locations in the country.

The military announced its findings as U.S. and Iraqi officials negotiate an agreement to extend the presence of U.S. troops after a United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year. A July 31 deadline declared by both sides is likely to be missed.

Some Iraqi officials have demanded that U.S. soldiers not on combat missions face Iraqi courts in cases of violence against Iraqis. And the June 25 shooting looks likely to bolster their case.

Parliament member Haidar Abadi, from Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party, said, “This would increase the Iraqi insistence about the issue of American soldiers’ immunity.”

Abadi said Iraqis were angry about the false accusations against the shooting victims.

“It was not only a mistake, but rather they gave incorrect information about the incident,” he said. “From now on, we will not be silent about an Iraqi being killed by mistake.”

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Armed bandits force tens of thousands of Central Africans to flee homes
UN

23 May 2008 –A surge since the start of the year in the number of attacks by armed bandits across the north of the Central African Republic (CAR) is forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes and has brought economic activity to a standstill in large parts of the already impoverished and strife-torn country, the United Nations relief wing reports today. (more…)

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