January 10, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - During a U.S. army cordon-and-search operation for a suspected anti-Iraqi force cell leader, an F-16 jet mistakenly dropped a 500-pound GPS-guided bomb on a home south of the main northern city of Mosul Saturday, killing at least five people.
The house was mistaken for an "insurgency hideout" in northern Iraq. The intended target was another location nearby, and was part of a cordon-and-search operation to capture an anti-Iraqi force cell leader. The pre-dawn strike was part of a pre-planned air mission to support ground troops searching for insurgents in support of offensive operations in the area.
The United States military said in a statement that at least five people died after an F-16 warplane dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong target.
"The house was not the intended target for the air strike. The intended target was another location nearby," the US army said. It added that it "deeply regrets the loss of possibly innocent lives" and that an investigation was under way.
The owener of the house put the death toll at 14, all from the same family. Reuters television pictures also showed 14 freshly dug graves after the bombing in the early hours of Saturday.
The errant attack came at a time when US and Iraqi military planners have stepped up operations in Mosul, responding to pressure to quell violence in Iraq’s third-largest city before the national election just three weeks away.
Iraqi anger over civilian casualties in Iraq however has dented these US efforts to get the country behind the elections.