BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – U.S. airstrikes destroyed two foreign fighter safe houses west of Baghdad on Saturday night, killing five insurgents, two women and a child, the U.S. military said on Sunday.
Residents put the death toll in the village of al-Lihaib near the town of Garma much higher, saying as many as 24 people had been killed and some buildings levelled. The figures could not be independently confirmed. “Recent intelligence reports indicated the targeted building was being used to harbour foreign fighters. Intelligence reports also verified that several men were present at the targeted building during the time of the raid,” the military said in a statement.
“After the air strike destroyed the building, Coalition forces were able to determine that five terrorists, along with two women and one child, were killed,” it said.
It said a sixth insurgent had been killed and three detained by ground forces. “Coalition forces take precautions to mitigate risks to civilians while in pursuit of terrorists. However, terrorists continue to put innocent civilians in danger by operating among them,” it said.
The village is in western Anbar province, where the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces and the Shi’ite-led government is strongest. An F-16 warplane crashed in the Garma area last week during fierce battles between insurgents and U.S. forces.
The body of the pilot, who was killed in the crash, has not been seen since, and the U.S. military suspects it was taken from the crash site by militants.