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Pentagon: U.S. did not target Baghdad marketplace

Chemical suits discovered in Iraqi hospital

Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, left, and Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke
Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, left, and Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A marketplace in Baghdad was not the target of a coalition attack, Pentagon officials said Wednesday, but they could not say whether the destruction there was the result of Iraqi weapons or U.S. missiles that went astray.

"We do know for a fact that something landed in the Shaab district," Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said. "But we do not know if it was U.S. or Iraqi. We do know that we did not target anything in the vicinity of the ... district."

Iraqi officials claim there were civilian casualties in the marketplace from a strike. Images of the damage and injured civilians at the marketplace were aired on agencies and networks in the Middle East Wednesday.

Pentagon officials said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was putting civilians at risk by placing military assets and weaponry in residential areas. Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said that practice demonstrates that Saddam "could not care less about people's lives." She said some missile launchers had been placed about 300 feet from people's homes.

The Pentagon increasingly has criticized the practices of the Iraqi military on the battlefield, saying it is flaunting conventional rules of engagement and engaging in deceit and guerrilla tactics to ambush coalition forces.

Clarke said there has been one report of Iraqi forces wearing U.S. uniforms, a move she said was intended to "confuse our forces, to confuse the Iraqi people."

"They are trying to get an overreaction from coalition forces, so that we'll fire on people who are trying to surrender," McChrystal said. "We won't change our rules of engagement and I don't think we will change the nature of our soldiers ...They'll be careful."

On Tuesday, U.S. Marines found about 3,000 chemical protective suits and nerve agent antidote injectors in a hospital that Iraqi forces had been using as a "fortress," Clarke said. They discovered, Clarke said, a "den of destruction" and indications that Iraqi forces may be considering the use of chemical weapons.

"They captured 170 Iraqi troops, they found about 200 weapons, stockpiles of munitions and 3,000 chemical suits with masks, and even a tank," she said. "The Iraqi troops also had supplies and medicine designed to protect against nerve gas. Since coalition forces, obviously, do not have or use nerve gas, the conclusion is inescapable: The enemy may be planning to use such agents against us or the Iraqi people."


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