Iraq: American strike kills 25 Shiites
American forces backed by attack aircraft killed at least 25 Shiite fighters north of Baghdad Friday in an operation targeting a cell accused of smuggling weapons from Iran, the military said. According to the AP, the troops were seeking the commander of a group believed to be associated with the Quds Force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the U.S. military said.
Gunmen opened fire on the soldiers with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and at least one man was carrying what appeared to be an anti-aircraft weapon, the military said. Ground forces called for air support when the fighters kept coming toward them, the military said. Two buildings were demolished in airstrikes, it said.
The U.S. military said separately that it was investigating the deaths of three civilians who were shot by U.S. soldiers near a checkpoint erected by Iraqis who have joined forces against al Qaeda.
In Friday's pre-dawn raid on the Shiite militia members, U.S. aircraft repeatedly bombed the neighborhood in Khalis, a Shiite enclave about 50 miles north of Baghdad, according to an Iraqi army official. At least 24 were killed, 28 were injured, most of whom were in critical condition, and several others were missing, he said.
He said civilians were killed when they rushed out to help those hurt in the initial bombing.
The town's mayor said U.S. forces targeted areas built up by locals to protect their Shiite neighborhood against attacks by al-Qaeda gunmen. "These places came under attack by American airstrikes," said Khalis Mayor Odai al-Khadran.
The U.S. military also reported the death of a U.S. soldier, killed by small-arms fire during operations Thursday in a southern section of the Iraqi capital used by al-Qaeda cells.