BAGHDAD, (AP) – A friendly fire shootout early Wednesday between Iraqi security forces and American soldiers killed six Iraqis north of Baghdad, police and security officials said.
Iraqi forces at a checkpoint started shooting at approaching American military boats on the Tigris River in Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, the Iraqi officials said. They didn’t realize the boats, which had their lights turned off, were American, they said.
The U.S. soldiers fired back, killing two Iraqi soldiers, two police officers and two U.S.-backed Sunni tribesmen, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release the information to the media.
Two American helicopters later fired on a one-room house on an island in the river, the Iraqis added.
The U.S. military confirmed that coalition forces were in the area conducting an operation against suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq militants when an “incident involving weapons fire” took place between the U.S. soldiers and Iraqi security forces.
A U.S. spokesman said aircraft was involved but did not immediately release more details.
“It is always regretful when incidents of mistaken fire occur on the battlefield,” the spokesman, Maj. John Hall, said in an e-mail. An investigation was under way, he said.
The shootout comes two days after a suicide bomber attacked the home of a local awakening council leader in Tarmiyah. The leader was wounded and another member of the U.S.-allied Sunni group was killed, the U.S. military has said.
The awakening councils are groups of Sunni tribesmen who turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and are now working with the U.S. military in its fight against the militants.
The American military currently pays the awakening council members, but plans are under way to begin shifting their contracts to the Iraqi government.
The U.S. military said this week that the contracts for about 54,000 awakening council members in Baghdad province would shift to the predominantly Shiite Iraqi government beginning Oct. 1. The Sunni tribesmen would receive their first Iraqi government payments a month later.