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US Military Denies Targeting Residential Area of Baghdad - 2003-03-26

Pentagon officials are denying that they targeted a residential neighborhood in Baghdad where Iraqi officials say at least 14 people were killed by a U.S. missile.

The Pentagon says coalition aircraft fired precision-guided weapons to target nine Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles and launchers in Baghdad, but the targets were not in a neighborhood where Iraq says U.S. missiles killed the civilians.

The U.S. Central Command said in a statement the targeted missiles were less than 300 feet from homes and that a full assessment of the operation is ongoing.

Pentagon officials raised the possibility that Iraqi anti-aircraft fire or a malfunctioning Iraqi missile could have caused the deaths in Baghdad, but they concede they do not know what caused the deadly blast.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says the Iraqi military's decision to put weapons in urban neighborhoods shows the Iraqi government does not care about its own people.

"A sign of the brutality of this regime and a sign of how little they care about civilians that they put military assets close to civilians, in and around and near civilians, deliberately putting their lives at risk," she said.

The Pentagon says coalition forces go to great lengths to avoid injuries to civilians and damage to civilian facilities.

Military officials do say such damage is unavoidable when the Iraqi government places military weapons in civilian areas.