Arbil in Mourning
ARBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan — We arrived today in Arbil, the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government, to find a city on edge and in mourning. An American fighter jet had just hit a convoy of peshmergas and U.S. Special Forces in a friendly fire incident that left at at least seven Kurdish fighters and possibly three American troops dead. Also killed were several civilians, including the translator for BBC’s John Simpson, Kameran Abdulrazzaq.
The details of the attack remain unclear, but the attack by an F-15E Strike Eagle seems to have occurred after the lightly armed Kurds and American troops captured one or two Iraqi tanks intact, said Fawzi Hariri, assistant to the head of the International Affairs bureau for the KDP. The pilot of the American plane mistook the allied forces on the ground and attacked.
Abdulrazzaq, an engineer by training, was a Simpson’s translator. When he couldn’t find a job, one of Hariri’s aides told me, he took the job with the BBC to earn money.
Simpson himself was slightly injured in the attack, and one of the BBC’s vehicles was almost destroyed. The incident occurred earlier today on the road between Peeardawid and Dybaga, beyond Kalek toward the Iraqi front, Hariri said.
As J. and I pulled up to the hotel, we saw the husk of the BBC Range Rover. All its windows were blown out and it’s front and back ends showed clear impact damage. The front was torn to hell and burned a bit. It’s a miracle they were able to get it back to the hotel.
The city itself seems edgy and nervous, as can well be expected. Many residents are glued to Al Jazeera, seeking news of friends or relatives who may have been injured. [J. told me later that he ran into a man on the street who asked if he was American and asked about the incident. J. tried to explain that it was an accident, he said, but the man just shook his head and said, “Very bad, very bad.” It remains to be seen how this attack will affect the Kurds’ feelings towards the United States, especially considering the brother of Massoud Barzani, head of the KDP was among the injured.]
Welcome to the war.
[From Chris, 10:39 p.m.: I added some stuff from J. and edited a little bit — fixing line endings and moving Hariri’s attribution up so it made sense. Such are the hazards of moving paragraphs around using copy and paste sometimes.]