"...Three Daughters Are Dead"

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Monday, April 14, 2003 at 5:26PM :

April 14,
New York Times

Family Struggles to Tell Father That Three Daughters Are Dead
by Monica Davey

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 13 "I don't know how I'll tell him," Sindous Abbas, 30, said today. At her back was a window, which looked out to the sidewalk where her husband, Saad, 34, sat in pain and ignorance. He had been out of the hospital for just two days. She spoke inside so he would not hear.

"It wasn't just ordinary love," Ms. Abbas said. "He was crazy about them. It wasn't like other fathers."

What all his neighbors and relatives and his own wife have not yet been able to say to him is that three of his daughters Marwa, 11, Tabarek, 8, and Safia, 5 did not survive the missile that punched down into their apartment on the third night of American airstrikes. No one has any reason to believe it was anything other than an American missile.

This evening, Mr. Abbas, sitting with his broken heel propped up on a chair, with scabs and cuts from the shrapnel that blasted into chest, legs and arms, told how his apartment filled with smoke that night and how he dragged three of his children out. He rushed back into the apartment for the other three. Then the missile exploded. "I still have three more children in the hospital," Mr. Abbas said. That is what everyone has been telling him.

While American military officials emphasized repeatedly that all efforts were made to avoid civilian casualties in the attack on Iraq, there still were many. And only now that Saddam Hussein's government is not in power and restricting movement is the full toll of injury and death slowly trickling out.

There are still no definitive estimates, but it is clear that several hundred died and many more were wounded both from bombs and from soldiers firing on suspected combatants. It is also clear that those casualties have cost the Americans precious support here.

"Saddam Hussein is gone, and we are all left here to die," said Hussein Nameh, 22, who was standing on the street waiting for a taxi outside Saddam Medical Center here.

Since that facility is one of the few hospitals still operating in the city most of the others are looted and their employees are gone it is overflowing with the injured, including Mr. Nameh's cousin, Toma Saber Toma. (On Saturday, an American marine was also killed outside the hospital by a sniper's bullet).

Today Mr. Toma, 18, stood barefoot, dazed and mute on the street, his nose crushed and mouth swollen. A feeding tube was taped into his nose because his tongue was blown partly off by what his cousin said was shrapnel from an American bomb, dropped in the Kadhim neighborhood a week ago. Three friends who were with Mr. Toma inside the house were killed.

On the street, too, was Adel Samurai, 40, lying in a hospital bed, wheeled out to the street, also waiting for a taxi. His brother, Ali, 50, said Mr. Samurai was sitting at home on Thursday night when a firefight broke out on his street involving American troops.

He was hit twice in the chest, with one bullet that passed through him and another that doctors removed and identified as an American round.

"So many people were killed," said Ali Samurai, who said he had gone to the hospital straight from the funerals of nine people killed by what he said were American bombs. "There was no need for this. The Americans are greedy and just want our resources. We never attacked the United States."

In the old Awa section of Baghdad, with its narrow streets and balconies and mostly poor Shiite Muslim families, Mr. Abbas's relatives climbed to the roof of his home to show where the missile hit. It sheared through a thick metal bar of a roof-top sheep pen, though an iron feeding tray, then through the roof and into Mr. Abbas's small home.

Inside the apartment, the missile ricocheted off a wall, then smashed into the floor, near where his four daughters were sleeping.

Mr. Abbas rushed out with his two sons and one daughter, whose leg was smashed. He did not see the shell, which exploded when he ran back inside for the other members of his family.

Today, the walls of the home were still spattered with blackened pieces of flesh. One of the girl's legs had blown off and was suspended that night from the top of the ceiling fan.

"Even the Israelis don't do things this bad," said Thia Rashid, 35, one of Mr. Abbas's cousins, who is also a neighbor who helped clean the apartment. "There is no reason for this. It's a criminal act."

Ms. Abbas, sitting beside her wounded daughter, Sara, 14, could not say if she was angry at the Americans for the deaths of her three daughters.

"I'm losing my mind," she said. "I just don't know what to say."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

-- Sadie
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