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U.S. troops in Iraq kill couple, wound daughter in raid on home

Denying the military's claim that the man was a member of Al Qaeda in Iraq, an official vows to seek prosecution of soldiers.

January 25, 2009|Ned Parker and Saif Hameed

BAGHDAD — U.S. forces killed a couple and wounded their 9-year-old daughter during a raid on their home in northern Iraq early Saturday, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.

The U.S. military said the man was suspected of being part of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq, but local officials said he was a retired colonel with no links to insurgent groups.

The U.S. military said it raided the home in the Hawija district near Kirkuk after arresting a suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq militant in a nearby house. Troops opened fire when the woman, despite repeated warnings, reached for something beneath her mattress, the military said. One of the bullets passed through the woman's body and wounded the couple's daughter in the leg.

The man then attacked the soldiers and they shot him, the statement said.

The military said a handgun later was found under the woman's mattress.

The chairman of the Hawija Council said the woman's husband, Dhia Hussein, had not been linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq, as the U.S. military claimed.

"I personally know Col. Dhia Hussein; he is one of the former army officers and he was trying to return to the new Iraqi army. He has no affiliations with any armed groups," council Chairman Hussein Ali Salih said.

He vowed to seek justice in an Iraqi court for the shootings, in what would amount to a major test of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement that went into effect this month. Iraq regained full sovereignty, including responsibility for security, on Jan. 1. But under the security pact, American troops cannot be brought before the Iraqi judiciary for actions during combat operations.

"We will issue an official complaint to the Iraqi judiciary and demand to try those [involved] according to Iraqi law, since this operation was carried on by a special unit of American forces," Salih said. "It's a hideous crime committed against a family in the Hawija district."

People in the village of Alewya, where the couple lived, said the raid involved helicopters and a security cordon that sealed off the village.

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ned.parker@latimes.com

Hameed is a special correspondent. A correspondent in Kirkuk also contributed to this report.

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