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US admits killing Iraqi civilians
At least nine people killed "as coalition forces pursued al-Qaeda" south of Baghdad.
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2008 06:33 GMT
Sunni tribal fighters said US troops killed dozens of their men in a battle in November [File: AFP]
The US military has admitted that nine Iraqi civilians were killed during an operation targeting suspected al-Qaeda fighters south of Baghdad, the capital.

Navy Lieutenant Patrick Evans, a military spokesman, said that the incident occurred on Saturday near the town of Iskandariya, 50km south of the Iraqi capital.
Three more civilians including two children were wounded "as coalition forces pursued al-Qaeda".

Witnesses said that 20 people, including 17 members of one family, had been killed in an US air raid in the area.
"Shortly after the incident, coalition forces leaders met with a sheikh representing the citizens of the local area," a US military statement said.
"The incident is under investigation. We offer our condolences to the families of those who were killed in this incident, and we mourn the loss of innocent civilian life."

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The statement gave no further details.

Iraqi police said that US helicopters had fired on a checkpoint manned by a neighbourhood police patrol and several woman were among the victims.

Saturday's strike was the deadliest case of "mistaken identity" acknowledged by US forces in recent months.

In November, a leader of one of the so-called awakening councils, Sunni tribesmen allied with American forces in fighting to oust al-Qaeda from their towns, said that US soldiers had killed dozens of his fighters during a 12-hour battle north of Baghdad.

Mansour Abid Salim, the leader of the Taji Awakening Council, accused US troops of mistaking his men for fighters.

The military admitted killing 25 men, but said they were "insurgents" operating "in the target area" where al-Qaeda was believed to be hiding.

Critics say US forces often call in air raids on targets, including buildings where opposition fighters are believed to be hiding, without taking reasonable care to find out who might be inside.
   
The US military says that armed groups often deliberately use civilians as shields against attacking US forces.
Source:
Agencies
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