An American missile is responsible for the deaths Friday of at least 62 Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad market, reports the London-based Independent.
According to Independent correspondent Robert Fisk, who found the foot-long shrapnel shard of the missile at the scene of the blast, the serial number on the shard identified the weapon as an American-made Harm (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) device, or a Paveway laser-guided bomb?both manufactured by Arizona-based Raytheon.
U.S. military officials confirmed that at least one Harm missile was fired over Baghdad Friday, but a Pentagon spokesman would not comment on the Independent report. ?Our investigations are continuing,? he said. ?We cannot comment on serial numbers which may or may not have been found at the scene.?
Both U.S. and British officials have suggested that the deaths at the market in Baghdad?s Shu?ale district could?ve been caused by malfunctioning Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles. ?A large number of surface-to-air missiles have been malfunctioning and many have failed to hit their targets and have fallen back on to Baghdad,? said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. ?We are not saying definitively that these explosions were caused by Iraqi missiles, but people should approach this with due skepticism.?
A government source in Washington suggested that the Iraqi government may have planted the shrapnel at the scene.
Defense experts have criticized the reliability of the Harm missile, which reportedly can be rendered inaccurate when enemy targets rapidly switch their radar signals off and on?as Iraqi forces have done. A farmer and his daughter were badly injured during the Kosovo bombing in 1999 when a Harm missile exploded in their village. ?The problem with Harms is that they can be seduced away from their targets by any sort of curious transmission,? said Nick Cook of Jane?s Defence Weekly. ?They are meant to have corrected that but there have been problems.?