The wedding feast was finished and the women had just led the young bride
and groom away to their marriage tent for the night when Haleema Shihab
heard the first sounds of the fighter jets screeching through the sky above.
It was 10.30pm in the remote village of Mukaradeeb by the Syrian border and
the guests hurried back to their homes as the party ended. As sister-in-law
of the groom, Mrs Shihab, 30, was to sleep with her husband and children in
the house of the wedding party, the Rakat family villa. She was one of the
few in the house who survived the night.
"The bombing started at 3am," she said yesterday from her bed in the
emergency ward at Ramadi general hospital, 60 miles west of Baghdad. "We
went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They
were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one," she said. She
ran with her youngest child in her arms and her two young boys, Ali and
Hamza, close behind. As she crossed the fields a shell exploded close to
her, fracturing her legs and knocking her to the ground.
She lay there and a second round hit her on the right arm. By then her two
boys lay dead. "I left them because they were dead," she said. One, she
saw, had been decapitated by a shell.
"I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I
pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive
next to me."
Mrs Shibab's description, backed by other witnesses, of an attack on a
sleeping village is at odds with the American claim that they came under
fire while targeting a suspected foreign fighter safe house.
She described how in the hours before dawn she watched as American troops
destroyed the Rakat villa and the house next door, reducing the buildings
Another relative carried Mrs Shihab and her surviving child to hospital.
There she was told her husband Mohammed, the eldest of the Rakat sons, had
As Mrs Shihab spoke she gestured with hands still daubed red-brown with the
henna the women had used to decorate themselves for the wedding. Alongside
her in the ward yesterday were three badly injured girls from the Rakat
family: Khalood Mohammed, aged just a year and struggling for breath, Moaza
Rakat, 12, and Iqbal Rakat, 15, whose right foot doctors had already