Many people were killed or wounded by a U.S. air strike called to support Iraqi troops in the town of Hilla south of Baghdad on Wednesday, Iraqi security sources said. According to Reuters, American forces confirmed the air strike and said they were not certain how many people had been killed.
One police source said at least 11 people were killed and 18 hurt in the strike, launched after Iraqi security forces called for support following street battles with Shi'ite militia members in the city's Thawra neighbourhood. Another police source said 29 people were killed and 39 were wounded. He said six houses were destroyed in the strikes which lasted for an hour late on Wednesday evening.
Two other security sources said the combined total of dead and wounded was in the dozens, although they were unable to give precise casualty figures.
Also on Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on Shi'ite militiamen to surrender as his forces staged a crackdown on followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. On his part, the Shiite leader called for talks to end the crackdown on his followers.
More than 80 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the fighting, centred on the southern oil hub of Basra and spreading to Shi'ite parts of Baghdad.
Maliki, in Basra to oversee the campaign, said fighters would be spared if they surrendered within 72 hours.