US airstrike in Iraq kills 11, including civilians

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BAGHDAD, Oct 23 (Reuters) The US military said six Iraqi civilians were among 11 people killed in an air strike by an attack helicopter north of Baghdad early today.

The military said it had been targeting a group of five men who fled into a house after the helicopter crew saw them planting a roadside bomb in an area south of Samarra. Residents said 14 people were killed, including women and children.

''They chose to go into a house with civilians to hide. They endangered folks on the ground by doing that. We send condolences to the families of those victims and we regret any loss of life,'' military spokesman Major Peggy Kageleiry said.

She said the incident was under investigation, but according to initial reports five ''military age males'' and six civilians were among those killed.

The US military is already investigating another deadly air strike in which nine children and six women were killed on October 11 during an operation targeting senior leaders of al Qaeda in the Lake Thar Thar area 80 km northwest of Baghdad.

The Iraqi government has also protested against a weekend raid by US forces in the Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr City in which US troops backed by attack helicopters said they killed 49 gunmen. Police put the toll at 13 and said they were all civilians, including two toddlers.

REUTERS SZ BD1602

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