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U.S. raid targeting insurgents kills 2 women, child in Iraq
Los Angeles Times
BAGHDAD — At least five people, including two women and a child, were killed early Friday morning in a raid by American special-operations forces targeting suspected insurgents in Baqouba.
U.S. military officials said two of the men killed in the city northeast of Baghdad were believed to be insurgent associates of a senior leader of the al-Qaida in Iraq group previously headed by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Along with the women and child who were killed Friday, at least 25 other people were wounded.
A U.S. Marine was killed in action Friday in western Iraq, the U.S. military said. The Marine was assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. It was the 24th death this month among U.S. forces in Iraq. At least 2,558 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.
South of Baghdad, in Mahmoudiya, seven Iraqi police officers and soldiers were killed in another raid in which 60 suspected insurgents were captured.
While local officials praised the latter two-hour clash, the Baqouba operation was met with fury. Baqouba residents and political leaders accused the U.S. of excessive force, saying there was no need to fire missiles, bombs or artillery shells at the house.
"They demolished three houses with children in them just because they wanted two insurgents?" asked Raad Dahlaki, chief of the municipal council in Baqouba. "Why couldn't they just detain the men? Why did they have to demolish these three houses?"
Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman, said American forces in Baqouba used "aerial fires," an assault from a helicopter, fighter plane or artillery piece, to attack several houses after they were shot at from rooftops and men were seen on the roofs potentially positioning themselves for an attack.
"They were twice given verbal instructions for all occupants to exit the buildings and failed to do so," Johnson said.
Although the Baqouba neighborhood has seen violence in the past, it had grown calmer recently and residents were beginning to work with the Americans, Dahlaki said. The death of the women and child, however, threatens to turn the area against the U.S. forces.
U.S. officials said the men targeted in the attack had connections with foreign fighters operating in the area and had been linked to attacks against Iraqi civilians. U.S. forces detained four men in the operation, officials said.
Residents said the raid occurred around 3 a.m. Fawzi Ahmed, a 45-year-old neighbor, said at least some in the military unit who carried out the attack were not dressed in standard uniforms. When he spotted the unit before the attack, he suspected they might be a militia group. Ahmed said he only realized it was a U.S. force when he heard them speak English.
"We did not recognize them as Americans, because some of them were wearing black shirts," Ahmed said.
U.S. Army Special Forces personnel do not always wear standard uniforms in Iraq and some grow mustaches or beards that could possibly have the men be mistaken in the dark for Iraqis.
Military officials said they regretted the deaths of the civilians.
In contrast, the raid in Mahmoudiya was praised by local officials there.
U.S. military officials said soldiers from the 6th Army Division had received a tip that a group of about 10 to 15 armed men were attacking a house in Mahmoudiya. Officials said five insurgents were killed in the fighting and the others attempted to flee in a white truck, pursued by Iraqi security forces.
The insurgents abandoned the truck, which an American attack helicopter destroyed, and ran into nearby canals.
Los Angeles Times reporters Shamil Aziz and Saif Alazzawi contributed to this report, which was supplemented with material from The Associated Press.
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