Sunday 06, April, 2003 / Last Updated: 6:14AM Doha time, 11:14AM GMT

17 civilians killed in airstrikes on Basra

American and British air strikes on the besieged southern city of Basra killed 17 Iraqi civilians, including nine children.

Al Jazeera Television's correspondent in the city reported the funeral of 15 people, who were part of the same family, was held in the city on Saturday afternoon.

The correspondent said they were killed when missiles hit eight houses in Basra, a city of 1.5 million people and surrounded for nearly two weeks by British troops.

The US military said on Saturday it had bombed the Basra residence of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's cousin and top aide, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for his ruthless campaign against the Kurds in 1988.

Two coalition aircraft struck the building with "laser-guided munitions" at around 5:30 am (0130 GMT), US Central Command said in a statement.

Majid ordered the 1988 mustard gas attack on Halabja village to put down a Kurdish uprising backed by Iran, which was at war with Iraq. An estimated 5,000 people died, most of them women and children.

Majid, Saddam's right-hand man, was put in charge of defending southern Iraq ahead of the war.

"Ali is a member of the Iraqi president's inner circle and holds the military title, 'southern commander of forces'," the Central Command statement said.

A British army source said the residence was targeted after receiving information from a reliable source on the ground that Ali was present.

"The building was subsequently targeted and hit by both air strikes and artillery. There is a strong chance that anyone caught inside would have been killed or seriously injured." --- Al Jazeera

Original URL:

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)