Janine Zacharia / Washington Post – 2010-09-16 10:46:12
Iraqi-US Operation Leaves at Least 6 Dead
BAGHDAD (September 16, 2010) — At least six Iraqis were killed during a joint Iraqi-American counterterrorism operation on the outskirts of Fallujah on Wednesday, in the deadliest incident involving US troops since the United States declared an end to its combat operations in Iraq on Aug. 31.
Iraqi officials said eight civilians were killed, while the US military said four suspected members of al Qaeda in Iraq and two civilians died in a firefight that erupted as forces tried to capture a suspected member of the militant group who was allegedly responsible for attacks in the region.
The US soldiers were sent as advisers to the Iraqi troops, American and Iraqi officials said. Despite the official end of the US combat mission, roughly 4,500 US Special Operations forces remain in Iraq.
Iraqi officials in Anbar province said US and Iraqi forces began raiding houses at 3 a.m. in Jubil, about 30 miles west of Baghdad. Among those killed, they said, were a 70-year-old man and three of his sons, who were all asleep in their yard when they were killed by a grenade. A fourth son died later at a hospital, the Iraqi officials said.
Troops also entered a second house in the area and killed a former Iraqi military commander, Yaseen Kassar, Iraqi officials said, as well as two more people in a third house.
It was not immediately clear whether the soldiers had been looking specifically for Kassar or any of the other people killed. Many Iraqi army commanders who were fired shortly after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq later became insurgent leaders.
Late Wednesday, a US military spokesman disputed the local Iraqi officials’ account. Maj. Rob Phillips said four suspected al Qaeda militants were killed and three were wounded after security forces were fired upon as they approached the building they were targeting.
Iraqi forces shot dead two residents as they emerged from their homes, reportedly armed, Phillips said, adding that four suspects were also arrested.
The incident could heighten tensions in Anbar province, which was among the strongholds of the Sunni insurgency between 2004 and 2007. As US troops have thinned out in recent months, insurgent groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq have sought to regain a foothold there.
“The security situation in Fallujah may deteriorate because of what happened today,” said Abdulfattah Izghear, a local city council member. “We asked US troops and the Iraqi government to explain this unjustified action and this naked aggression against civilians.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is in charge of the Iraqi special forces, ordered an investigation into the incident, the state-run network al-Iraqiya reported.
US Toll in Iraq
As of Wednesday, at least 4,418 members of the US military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The latest deaths reported by the military:
Jenkins, Philip C., 26, Army Sgt.; Decatur, Ind.
McClamrock, James F., 22, Army Pvt.; Huntersville, NC.
For a list of all US troops who have died in Iraq, see www.sfgate.com/ZCQ
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