Seven Civilians Killed in US-Iraqi Raid

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Agence France Presse

Seven Civilians Killed in US-Iraqi Raid

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A US attack helicopter flies overhead as an Iraqi policeman walks during a joint operation with Iraqi security forces on the first day after America ended its combat role, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010 in Hawija, north of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Seven civilians were among 18 people killed in Iraq on Wednesday, shot dead as US and Iraqi troops tried to nab a top Al-Qaeda leader in Fallujah, sparking public anger in the former rebel base.

Two Iraqi soldiers were also killed in the firefight west of Baghdad, while a roadside bomb in northern Iraq claimed the lives of nine other troops travelling home on leave.

The latest violence comes two weeks after Washington declared an official end to combat operations here, and with no new government having formed since elections in March.

The early morning shootout in Fallujah -- long a base for Sunni Arab rebels who waged attacks against US forces and the Iraqi government -- left nine people dead overall.

Major General Baha Hussein al-Karkhi, police chief for Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, said "a joint force from Baghdad was ordered to raid a terrorist's house in Jbeil (central Fallujah).

And Major Rob Phillips, a US Army press officer, said the raid had been conducted to catch a "senior AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) leader." He could not say whether the individual targeted had been killed, captured or had escaped.

Karkhi said seven civilians were killed and four wounded, and that two Iraqi soldiers also died.

Others sources gave different tolls.

Phillips said six people were killed, while Fallujah police director Brigadier General Faisal al-Essawi and the city's media chief Mohammed Fathi put the death toll at eight civilians.

Essawi said of the eight killed were two women and two children, while the other four included a former colonel in the Iraqi army during the rule of now executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

The raid sparked public anger in Fallujah, with the municipal council labelling it a "provocation".

"This brutal operation is an act of provocation against the population of Fallujah and the city's security forces," said a statement issued by the council and read out by council member Ahmed al-Dulaimi.

It called for an investigation into the shootings, and declared three days of mourning.

A vehicle ban was imposed on Fallujah, and the area that was raided was cordoned off by security forces.

A US Army press officer, Major Bryan Woods, said an inquiry would be started into the shootings.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the main northern city of Mosul, nine Iraqi soldiers were killed when the minibus they were travelling in was struck by a roadside bomb. Another six were wounded, a police official said.

All were members of the Iraqi Third Division and were headed home on leave.

Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province remain among the most violent areas of Iraq, even as attacks in the rest of the country have dropped off after peaking in 2006 and 2007 during a brutal sectarian war.

US forces said combat operations in Iraq had concluded at the end of August but nearly 50,000 soldiers remain in the country with a mission to train Iraqi soldiers and police, and conduct joint counter-terror operations.

They are also allowed to fire in self-defence.

Since the September 1 declaration, US troops have shot at insurgents in Baghdad and restive Diyala province, north of the capital, and two American soldiers were killed by an Iraqi comrade after a row on an Iraqi base.

Violence appears to have risen again in recent months, with July and August recording two of the highest monthly death tolls since 2008, according to Iraqi government figures.

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