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US raid in Iraq 'kills anti-Qaeda militants'

Latest update : 2008-03-23

A US air strike killed at least six Iraqis near Samarra on Saturday. The leader of an anti-Qaeda "Awakening" front in Samarra, said those killed were members of his group.

An air strike by a US Apache helicopter near the central Iraqi city of Samarra on Saturday killed six Iraqis and wounded two, an anti-Qaeda leader and the American military said.
   
Abu Faruq, leader of an anti-Qaeda "Awakening" front in Samarra, said those killed were members of his group who had been manning a checkpoint when they came under attack.
   
The US military, however, said the assault had been launched after five people "were spotted conducting suspicious terrorist activity" in an area known for roadside bomb attacks near Samarra, 125 kilometres (80 miles) north of Baghdad.
   
Spokesman Captain Stephen Bomar told AFP that while initial reports indicated that an Awakening checkpoint had been attacked, later investigation found this was not the case.
   
Abu Faruq insisted that the victims had all been Awakening members who had been wearing reflective vests -- the distinctive clothing of anti-Qaeda fighters -- and had been manning a checkpoint at the time of the attack.
   
"At 5 am today I got a call from the Awakening fighters to say that a helicopter had fired flares above their checkpoint and had then launched an attack.
   
"Six of the members were killed and two others were wounded," Abu Faruq said, adding that he had accompanied police and ambulances when they ferried the casualties to hospital.
   
Awakening groups, comprising mainly Sunni Arabs who turned against their one-time allies Al-Qaeda, have been set up by the US military across Iraq and are credited with having been a key factor in the reduction of violence since last June.
   
In other violence on Saturday, a roadside bomb attack on a police patrol escorting a school bus to an antiquity site in northern Iraq killed a bystander and wounded two policemen and two students, police said.
   
The attack occurred when the convoy was travelling from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to the tourist town of Dibis, which contains an antiquity site, according to assistant police chief Major General Torhan Yussef.
   
"One civilian was killed and four policemen and two students were wounded," Yussef said.
   
In Baghdad, a roadside bomb attack on a bus killed one civilian and wounded three, an interior ministry official said.
   
The attack occurred in Al-Mashtal, a predominantly Shiite neighbourhood in southeast Baghdad known to be a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Date created : 2008-03-22

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