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The Amiriyah shelter massacre[1] was the killing of more than 408 civilians[2] on February 13, 1991 during the Gulf War, when an air-raid shelter ("Public Shelter No. 25"), also referred to as the Al Firdos C3 bunker by the U.S. military, in the Amiriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq was destroyed by the USAF with two laser-guided "smart bombs".[3]

According to U.S. government sources, the attack was based on signals and human intelligence reports suggesting the bunker was a military command site. The shelter was used in the Iran–Iraq War and the Persian Gulf War by hundreds of civilians.

Contents

Decisions leading to the bombing

The United States was responsible for the decision to target the Amiriyah shelter. By its own admission, the Department of Defense "knew the Ameriyya facility had been used as a civil-defense shelter during the Iran–Iraq War." Changes in the protected status of such a facility require warning, and Human Rights Watch notes that, "The United States' failure to give such a warning before proceeding with the disastrous attack on the Ameriyya shelter was a serious violation of the laws of war."[4]

Charles E. Allen, the CIA's National Intelligence Officer for Warning supported the selection of bomb targets during the first Gulf War. He coordinated intelligence with Colonel John Warden, who headed the Air Force's planning cell known as "Checkmate." On 10 February 1991 Allen presented his estimate to Col. Warden that Public Shelter Number 25 in the southwestern Baghdad suburb of Amiriyah had become an alternative command post and showed no sign of being used as a civilian bomb shelter.[5] However, Human Rights Watch noted in 1991, "It is now well established, through interviews with neighborhood residents, that the Ameriyya structure was plainly marked as a public shelter and was used throughout the air war by large numbers of civilians."[4]

Satellite photos and electronic intercepts indicating this alternative use were regarded as circumstantial and unconvincing to Brigadier General Buster Glosson, who had primary responsibility for targeting. Glosson's comment was that the assessment wasn't "worth a shit." A human source in Iraq, who had previously proven accurate warned the CIA that Iraqi intelligence had begun operating from the shelter. On 11 February, Shelter Number 25 was added to the Air Force's attack plan.[5]

Bombing

At 4:30 am the morning of 13 February, two F-117 stealth bombers each dropped a 2,000 pound GBU-27 laser-guided bomb on the shelter. The first cut through ten feet of reinforced concrete before a time-delayed fuse exploded. Minutes later the second bomb followed the path cut by the first bomb.[5] People staying in the upper level were incinerated by heat, while boiling water from the shelter's water tank killed those below.[6]

In the shelter at the time of the bombing were hundreds of Iraqi civilians. The previous evening had been the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr. More than 400 people were killed; reports vary and the registration book was incinerated in the blast.[6] The dead were overwhelmingly women and children because men and boys over the age of 15 had left the shelter to give the women and children some privacy. The blast sent shrapnel into surrounding buildings, shattering glass windows and splintering their foundations.[7]

The shelter is maintained as a memorial to those who died within it, featuring photos of those killed. According to visitors' reports, Umm Greyda, a woman who lost eight children in the bombing, moved into the shelter to help create the memorial, and serves as its primary guide.[8][9]

Debate after the fact

Jeremy Bowen, a BBC correspondent, was one of the first television reporters on the scene. Bowen was given access to the site and did not find evidence of military use.[10]

The White House, in a report titled Apparatus of Lies: Crafting Tragedy, states that US intelligence sources reported the blockhouse was being used for military command purposes. The report goes on to accuse the Iraqi government of deliberately keeping "select civilians" in a military facility at Amiriyah.[11]

According to Charles Heyman of Jane's World Armies, the signals intelligence observed at the shelter was from an aerial antenna that was connected to a communications center some 300 yards (270 m) away.[7]

References

  1. ^ The name Amiriyah can also be spelt Amiriya, Al'amrih, Amariya and Amariyah. There is no agreed spelling for the name in English. For example, The BBC uses all four spelling on its web site. CNN uses Amariya, Amariyah and Amiriya, while the Washington Post uses Amiriyah, Amiriya and Amariyah (once).
  2. ^ "A July 4 Challenge". RCP Publications. 2006-06-25. http://rwor.org/a/052/july4-en.html. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  3. ^ Jeenah, Na'eem (July 2001). "Al-Amariyah - A Graveyard of unwilling martyrs". http://naeemjeenah.shams.za.org/amariyah.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  4. ^ a b Human Rights Watch, Needless Deaths In The Gulf War: Civilian Casualties During the Air Campaign and Violations of the Laws of War, 1991.
  5. ^ a b c Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, Rick Atkinson, 1993, p. 284-285
  6. ^ a b Felicity Arbuthnot, The Ameriya Shelter - St. Valentine's Day Massacre, February 13, 2007.
  7. ^ a b Scott Peterson, "'Smarter' bombs still hit civilians, Christian Science Monitor, 22 October 2002.
  8. ^ John Dear, S.J., Iraq Journal: Notes from a peace delegation to a ravaged land, Soujourners Magazine, 1999.
  9. ^ Riverbend, Dedicated to the Memory of L.A.S., 15 February 2004.
  10. ^ Report aired on BBC 1, 14 February 1991
  11. ^ White House, Crafting Tragedy.

External links

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