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Marines: U.S. bombed Iraqi mosque wall



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BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military dropped two 500-pound bombs on a wall surrounding a mosque compound in Fallujah, but the Muslim house of worship was not the target, a U.S. Marine source in Al Anbar province said.

"We specifically did not target the mosque as we felt we could engage the enemy in the area with disciplined and well-aimed fire from our Marines without needing to cause extensive damage to the mosque and surrounding structures," the source said.

"This mosque was repeatedly used as a base to target Iraqi and coalition forces throughout the day," the source said. "The breach of the wall was a graduated response to the threat."

The source could not provide a casualty report, but said that if there were "enemy" casualties at the Abdul Aziz Shakir Mosque it was the result of gunfire from U.S. Marines' rifles.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said U.S. Marines were taking heavy arms fire from about 40 armed insurgents in the mosque.

Marines, pinned down, dropped two precision-guided 500-pound bombs on the walls of the mosque and fired a Hellfire missile.

"It didn't appear to us," Kimmitt said, "to have any effect on the main dome building itself."

The wall is a few hundred yards from any structure, the source said, and the mosque building was not damaged.

Muslims consider all of a mosque's compound as the mosque because worshippers gather on the grounds if the structure is full.

Insurgents "firing from the mosque blatantly misused a protected symbol by conducting offensive military operations from a place of worship," the source said.

"As a result, the mosque lost its protected status and therefore became a lawful military target."

Initially, media reports stated witnesses said the strike killed 40 people.


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