Twelve Iraqis killed in weapons dump explosion
Twelve Iraqis were killed when an ammunition dump they were looting in a village near ousted leader Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit blew up, locals said Monday.
"Twelve people were killed in the explosion. All lived in a district inhabited by former members of the Iraqi army who were unemployed," AFP cited Kazem Hassan, a former tank regiment sergeant now living in the village of Hammad Shehab, an estimated 175 kilometers north of Baghdad, as saying.
The fatalities were mostly young jobless men who came from four families living in a neighborhood of the village inhabited by up to 300 families of former servicemen, he said.
While the US military confirmed the incident, placing the first of two explosions at 8:30 pm (local time) Sunday, it said only one body had been found in the ashes.
"A team of investigators recovered the remains of one unidentified body," said Colonel Bill MacDonald, spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.
He added that no US troops or equipment were lost in the explosion.
US troops kept Iraqi police officials and firefighters away from the scene until 11:00 am (local time) Monday once the fires and chain-reaction ammunition explosions had subsided, MacDonald said.
Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera said the men had broken into the dump to loot copper from artillery and other shells which they would then resell.
"The men here are unemployed and the Americans shoot at them when they go near the dump but they go anyway because they need money," said villager Milad Ali Hussein.
MacDonald said the site was a former arms dump of former ruler Saddam's military. It is now being used as a store for weapons and ammunition confiscated from suspected Iraqi resistance fighters.
A US soldier guarding the site said only part of the ammunition had been neutralized due to the shortage of specialists.
"We chase them (looters) all the time. They take the brass from the shells and the tin from the roofs," he said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)