At least 11 civilians, nine of them children, were killed in Hilla in central Iraq yesterday, according to reporters in the town who said they appeared to be the victims of bombing.
Reporters from the Reuters news agency said they counted the bodies of 11 civilians and two Iraqi fighters in the Babylon suburb, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Nine of the dead were children, one a baby. Hospital workers said as many as 33 civilians were killed.
Terrifying film of women and children later emerged after Reuters and the Associated Press were permitted by the Iraqi authorities to take their cameras into the town. Their pictures ñ the first by Western news agencies from the Iraqi side of the battlefront ñ showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds, apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs.
Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies' Baghdad editors felt able to send only a few minutes of a 21-minute tape that included a father holding out pieces of his baby and screaming "cowards, cowards'' into the camera. Two lorryloads of bodies, including women in flowered dresses, could be seen outside the Hilla hospital.
Dr Nazem el-Adali, who was trained in Edinburgh, said almost all the patients were victims of cluster bombs dropped around Hella and in the neighbouring village of Mazarak. One woman, Alia Mukhtaff, is seen lying wounded on a bed; she lost six of her children and her husband in the attacks. Another man is seen with an arm missing, and a second man, Majeed Djelil, whose wife and two of his children were killed, can be seen sitting next to his third and surviving child, whose foot is missing. The mortuary of the hospital, a butcher's shop of chopped up corpses, is seen briefly in the tape.
Iraqi officials have been insisting for 48 hours that the Americans have used cluster bombs on civilians in the region but this is the first time that evidence supporting these claims has come from Western news agencies. Most of the wounded said they were hit by American munitions and one man described how an American vehicle fired a shell into his family home. "I could see an American flag,'' he says.
One of the editors in Baghdad, a European, when asked why he would not send the full videotape to London, wound the pictures on to two mutilated corpses of babies. "How could we ever send this?'' he said.
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