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U.S. troops killed 9 civilians, local authorities in Iraq say

June 26, 2008|Doug Smith | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Nine Iraqi civilians were killed Wednesday in two armed clashes involving U.S. soldiers, local authorities reported. The military said U.S. soldiers were fired upon first in both incidents.

In the capital, three people were killed in a fiery crash after gunfire erupted as their vehicle passed U.S. soldiers with a convoy stopped near the Baghdad international airport to recover a stalled vehicle.

Officials at Yarmouk Hospital identified the dead as a manager and two female employees from a bank at the airport. Iraqi police also reported that two bodyguards were injured.

A statement from the U.S. military characterized the three as criminals who opened fire on the military convoy about 9 a.m. The statement said that the assault left bullet holes in the U.S. vehicles and that a weapon was recovered from the wreckage.

The conflicting information in the two reports could not be immediately reconciled.

In east Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed one American soldier Wednesday, the U.S. military announced today. At least 4,110 U.S. service members have died since the war began in 2003, according to icasualties.org.

Earlier Wednesday outside Tikrit, about 80 miles north of Baghdad, six people were killed and three injured in and near a farmhouse that was destroyed in a U.S. airstrike, police said. A U.S. ground patrol called in the strike after coming under fire.

Police said the farmer, Affar Ahmed Zidan, heard the patrol outside about 2:30 a.m. and fired three warning shots in the air, thinking the soldiers were thieves.

Zidan then phoned police for help while hiding under a tree, saying he feared the Americans would bomb him, police said.

A neighbor, Tariq Azzawi, said Zidan was killed beside the tree and his wife and three children were killed in the house. The hospital raised the toll to six.

A statement from the U.S. military said the patrol was fired upon and surveillance teams observed an armed man moving into a nearby group of buildings. The airstrike was ordered when he refused to come out.

The man was killed and four women were slightly injured, but a thorough search did not reveal any other deaths, the statement said.

Civilian deaths at the hands of the U.S. military and private security contractors are a nagging cause of resentment with the Iraqi public and have become a sticking point in negotiations on an agreement to allow U.S.-led forces to remain in Iraq after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.

The Iraqi government is seeking legal jurisdiction in all cases involving injury or death to Iraqis. U.S. negotiators are willing to allow private security contractors to come under Iraqi law, but not the military.

Elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday, a Mosul City Council member and his driver were fatally shot in an ambush. A car bomb went off near an ice cream shop in east Baghdad, killing three and injuring seven, police said. And two people were killed and four people were injured in Karbala when a bomb detonated in a microbus.

In Washington, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with President Bush in the White House.

Talabani's office released a statement saying he praised Bush as "a great friend of the Iraqi people" and pledged to work toward a security agreement between the two countries.

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doug.smith@latimes.com

Special correspondents in Baghdad, Najaf and Samarra contributed to this report.

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