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Apparent 'friendly fire' kills 18, Kurdish officials say

Barzani
Kurdish special forces commander Wageeh Barzani was hospitalized in critical condition Sunday, after what Kurdish officials said was a friendly fire incident.

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ERBIL, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. warplane attacked a convoy of Kurdish Peshmerga guerrillas Sunday in northern Iraq, killing 18 people and wounding 45 in an apparent incident of "friendly fire."

The dead include 17 Kurdish fighters and Kamaran Abdel-Razaq, a civilian translator working for the BBC.

"We do know that one of our planes dropped bombs on that convoy, and that's all we know right now," Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN.

Among the wounded were the son and brother of one of the leaders of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

Wageeh Barzani, a Peshmerga commander and the younger brother of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani, was seriously wounded and was being flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany for treatment, KDP spokesman Hoshyar Zebari said.

Masoud Barzani's son Mansour Barzani also was wounded, although less critically than his uncle, CNN's Jane Arraf said.

"Maybe the lines of the combat were too close. Maybe they have mistaken the tanks the Peshmerga have taken with the new column that was advancing toward them," Zebari said. "You never know, but definitely a mistake has happened."

U.S. Central Command officials said they were looking into the incident, which occurred about 12:15 p.m. (4:15 a.m. EDT). A U.S. Special Forces team was working with the Kurds at the time, and initial reports indicate one U.S. soldier was injured, Central Command said.

burned vehicles
Blood stains the road in front of burned vehicles from a Kurdish convoy Sunday, near Makhmur, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

Along with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the KDP controls northern Iraq. The Kurds support the U.S.-led coaliton's effort to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power.

The convoy was about 18 miles (30 kilometers) from Erbil, and about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Mosul, in northern Iraq, when the airstrike occurred, sources told CNN.

The dead include Kamaran Abdel-Razaq, a civilian translator working for the BBC.

BBC Correspondent John Simpson, who was traveling with the convoy and was injured in the attack, called it "a scene from hell."

"There are vehicles lying around, bodies lying around, and there are bits of bodies around me," Simpson reported. He said the bomb landed only about 10 or 12 feet from the convoy.

Despite Sunday's attack, Kurdish authorities said they had captured the northern Iraqi town of Faidah after a two-day battle with Iraqi troops that left two Peshmerga fighters dead. The town is located across from the Kurdish-held town of Dohuk, on the road to Mosul.

-- CNN Correspondent James Martone contributed to this report.


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