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US, Iraqis differ on casualties in Ramadi battle

Written by: Staff
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RAMADI, Iraq, May 4 (Reuters) Iraqi doctors and neighbours in the Sunni Arab city of Ramadi accused U.S. troops of killing children in a missile strike today but the military said there had been no civilian casualties in the clash.

Local television footage showed the body of a boy lying in the rubble of a house. Hospital and police officials gave death tolls ranging from five to 13, with up to another 15 wounded.

Muhannad al-Fahadawi, a doctor at the main hospital, said two girls and a boy aged 8 were among at least 11 people he believed had been killed in the violence. A teenage girl was shown to reporters being treated for wounds in the hospital.

In an e-mail response, U.S. military spokesman Sergeant Doug Anderson said: ''There were no Coalition or civilian casualties.'' Describing the incident, he said: ''Coalition forces responded to an insurgent attack in central Ramadi today.

Marines ... were attacked multiple times with rocket-propelled grenades, medium machinegun fire and small arms fire from a building...

''Coalition forces responded with small arms fire, heavy machinegun fire, grenades and precision-guided munitions.'' Disputes over the identities of those killed in U.S. attacks are not uncommon. U.S. commanders say they go out of their way to avoid civilian casualties and accuse rebels of intentionally operating from crowded neighbourhoods. Many Iraqis say U.S. forces do not take enough care to avoid killing civilians.

''The American troops struck a house with two missiles in Maysaloon Street, then followed them with a third,'' said one man at the scene, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal.

''They brought the house down on people's heads.'' ''Is this the democracy that Bush wants? This is terrorism,'' he said, venting popular anger at U.S. President George W. Bush.

Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad and the capital of the mainly Sunni Arab desert province of Anbar, has seen much rebel activity over the past three years.

The US military said American and Iraqi forces killed more than 100 insurgents in Anbar last week. The provincial governor survived a suicide car bomb attack on his motorcade by rebels in central Ramadi on Tuesday that left 10 other people dead.

REUTERS PM PC2118

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