US air strikes kill 19 insurgents, 15 civilians

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BAGHDAD, Oct 11 (Reuters) US forces killed 19 insurgents and 15 women and children in air strikes north of Iraq's capital targeting suspected leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, the US military said today.

''We regret that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism,'' said Maj Brad Leighton, a spokesman for US forces in Iraq.

''These terrorists chose to deliberately place innocent Iraqi women and children in danger by their actions and presence.'' The US military said aircraft attacked a site in the Lake Thar Thar region, about 120 km north of Baghdad, after intelligence reports indicated senior al Qaeda members were meeting there. Four insurgents were killed.

It said suspects from the initial meeting then moved to another area south of Lake Thar Thar and US forces came under small arms fire from a building.

''Responding in self-defense, supporting aircraft engaged the enemy threat. After securing the area, the ground force assessed 15 terrorists, six women and nine children were killed, two suspects, one woman and three children were wounded, and one suspected terrorist was detained,'' the US military said.

Reuters DKS VP0353

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