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Questions Targeting Civilian Casualties - 2003-04-09


How did U.S. forces make the decision Tuesday to fire on a hotel full of journalists? And what calculations went into dropping those “Bunker-Buster” bombs, aimed at Saddam Hussein, into the middle of a civilian neighborhood? Brian Purchia has more.

The U.S. made the decision to strike this building in under an hour, despite its location in the heart of a residential neighborhood. The pilot, Captain Chris Wachter said the precision weapons he used in the attack are usually accurate to within 12 meters.

CAPTAIN CHRIS WACHTER
“We want to make sure that we're able to be very precise with our weapons, much like, say, a sniper rifle where it's a one shot, one kill.”

While the U.S saw it as a leadership target, the Iraqis who live in the neighborhood didn't see it that way at all.

(ARABIC) - RESIDENT
“My neighbor and my wife died here because of Americans. There are three families that are all under the rubble.”

NATURAL SOUND - BOOM BOOM

The decision to fire on the Palestine Hotel raises different questions. The hotel is on a "no hit," or "protected targets” list because it is filled with foreign and American journalists. But Central Command says the troops fired in self-defense.

BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
“Initial reports indicate that the coalition force operating near the hotel took fire from the lobby of the hotel and returned fire.”

But if US troops were being fired at from the lobby, General Brooks was asked, why did they send a tank round into a 15th floor balcony.

BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCENT BROOKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
“I may have misspoken on exactly where the fire came from.”

US troops say they also faced "significant enemy fire" from a building where Al Jazeera television was working. U.S. troops fired on the building, killing a correspondent.

The Pentagon said in reference to both these incidents, that journalists have been warned to get out of Baghdad. Pentagon Spokesperson Victoria Clarke.

VICTORIA CLARKE, PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON
“War is a dangerous, dangerous business, and you're not safe when you're in a war zone.”

The Pentagon did express regret for the loss of innocent life, but did not say any mistakes were made.

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