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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-316059 Pentagon / Iraq (S-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=5/19/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PENTAGON/IRAQ (S ONLY)

NUMBER=2-316059

BYLINE=ALEX BELIDA

DATELINE=PENTAGON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Defense officials are challenging news reports claiming U-S aircraft allegedly fired on a wedding party in western Iraq early Wednesday, killing more than 40 people. More from V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida at the Pentagon.

TEXT: The Associated Press says a U-S helicopter was responsible for the civilian casualties. It also says it has videotape purporting to show bodies of the dead being loaded into a truck near the Iraqi borders with Jordan and Syria. The victims are said to include women and children.

The Al-Arabiya broadcasting network has a similar report, but quotes eyewitnesses as saying U-S planes dropped bombs on a village where residents were celebrating a wedding.

In an initial reaction, though, defense officials in Washington and Baghdad are calling the reports of an attack on a wedding party a lie.

Instead, they say U-S forces came under attack in the remote area and returned fire. The officials do not dispute the reports of some 40 dead. But they say U-S forces later seized weapons and other equipment associated with anti-coalition forces in Iraq. (Signed)

NEB/BEL/RH/FC



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