TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) -A U.S. air strike killed several members of one family in the oil refining town of Baiji in northern Iraq, Iraqi security forces said on Tuesday.
There were conflicting official accounts of the death toll.
An Iraqi official in Tikrit at the Joint Coordination Center (JCC), which handles information and liaises between U.S. and Iraqi forces in the province, said 14 died when their house was destroyed in the raid late on Monday.
A police officer in Tikrit later contested that account and put the toll at six with three wounded but the JCC spokesman insisted 14 had been killed. No independent information was immediately available and the U.S. military offered no comment.
“There were 14 martyrs … in the house of Ghadhban Nahi Hussein,” the JCC official said, naming the owner of the house.
It was not clear why the building was targeted.
Another four houses were hit and two people were injured in the raid on Monday night, the JCC official said, amending his earlier casualty account of three wounded.
“We have this information from the Iraqi police and army in Baiji,” said the official, who declined to give his name.
The police officer in Tikrit, capital of Salahaddin province which includes Baiji, said six people were killed and three wounded. He said the JCC information was incorrect. He too spoke on condition of anonymity.
Baiji has seen considerable rebel violence, including efforts by insurgents to disrupt oil and fuel flows through its refinery, the biggest in Iraq. The closure of the refinery last month is causing serious shortages in fuel across the country.
U.S. forces have used air power increasingly throughout the past year. Official military data show only one strike was carried out in March and the average in the first quarter was five strikes per month compared to over 50 in the last quarter.
Iraqi medical staff, police and political leaders, particularly in the restive, Sunni Arab-dominated west and north, have reported civilian casualties in such raids; U.S. commanders say they make every effort to minimize that risk.