BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – U.S. forces backed by attack aircraft killed four suspected militants and three women in a raid on a house in northern Iraq on Friday, the military said.
A local Iraqi police officer put the death toll at eight. He said all were civilians from the same family and included three women. A helicopter air strike levelled the house at Dour, 140 km (85 miles) north of Baghdad, in Salahuddin province, he said.
In a statement, the military said U.S. forces were searching for an al Qaeda militant involved in roadside bombings.
Upon arriving at the house in Dour, troops ordered the occupants to come out. After an hour, an armed man appeared who was shot dead, the military said, adding he was later determined to be the wanted militant.
Attack aircraft were also called in, killing three militants but also the three women, the military said. A 3-year-old boy was rescued from rubble and taken away for treatment, it said.
The police officer, who declined to be identified, said six of the people were killed in the air strike. Two other family members were shot dead outside the house, he said. “We do not know what information they have about this family that would lead them to commit such an … act,” the police officer said. “I am waiting to meet the Americans to find out the reason that led to this tragedy.”
An Interior Ministry official in Baghdad said eight people had been killed in the raid but did not have details.
In the statement, U.S. military spokesman Colonel Jerry O’Hara, said: “Sadly, this incident again shows that (al Qaeda) terrorists repeatedly risk the lives of innocent women and children to further their evil work.”
Civilian deaths are a sensitive issue in Iraq as it negotiates a deal with the United States that will govern the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq when a U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.
One of the key sticking points is the question of immunity for U.S. soldiers.
In May, Iraqi police said eight civilians were killed in a helicopter strike in the northern town of Baiji, although U.S. forces said six of them were suspected militants with links to a bombing network.