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Iraqis carry the coffins of a woman and policeman killed during a US raid in the southern town of Kut. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said a US raid on Sunday in which a policeman and a woman were shot dead was a "breach" of a landmark security pact with Washington. (AFP/Ali al-Alak)

Iraq PM: Deadly US Raid 'Breach' of Security Pact

Common Dreams staff

BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said a US raid on Sunday in which a policeman and a woman were shot dead was a "breach" of a landmark security pact with Washington.

"The prime minister condemns the killings which are in breach of the (US-Iraqi) security pact," Maliki said in a statement carried by Iraqi state TV. The premier "wants those responsible to be put on trial," it added.

It is the first time either Washington or Baghdad has accused the other of violating the landmark pact, which requires US troops to leave all cities and major towns by June 30 and completely withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

The US military, however, insisted the pre-dawn raid in the southern town of Kut near the Iranian border was "fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government."

The Status Of Forces Agreement, which was signed in November, requires all military operations in Iraq to have government approval and to be "fully coordinated" with local authorities.

The accord allows Iraqi authorities to try US soldiers under certain circumstances but not for alleged crimes committed during combat missions.

Iraq had earlier detained two army commanders after the defence ministry said Baghdad had no knowledge of the operation in the southern town of Kut in which another six people were arrested.

Defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari said the army officers are accused of "permitting an American military force to carry out a security operation... without the knowledge of the defence ministry or the Iraqi government," adding that the six detainees have since been released.

An Iraqi security official in Kut confirmed that US forces had shot dead a woman and policeman during the operation and said those arrested included a police captain and a tribal leader.

Iraq's interior ministry -- which controls the police force -- sent a special delegation to Kut to investigate.

The US military said the raid led to the arrest of six alleged members of Shiite militant groups it suspects of having received funding, arms and training from Iran.

"In an operation fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government, coalition forces targeted a network financier, who is also responsible for smuggling weapons into the country," it said in a statement.

"As forces approached (the financier's) residence, an individual with a weapon came out of the home. Forces assessed him to be hostile and they engaged the man, killing him."

It said the woman killed during the raid "moved into the line of fire" and died of her gunshot wounds after receiving treatment from an army medic.

In June 2008, US forces arrested six men they accused of being part of an Iranian-trained militia in Kut, a mostly Shiite town.

The US military has long accused Iran of supporting sectarian militias in Iraq, a charge denied by Tehran.

In a joint operation elsewhere on Sunday, US and Iraqi forces swept into a suspected Al-Qaeda hideout north of Baghdad, killing at least seven fighters in a gunbattle, Iraqi officials said.

The fighting erupted in a densely wooded area where Al-Qaeda had been regrouping, according to Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Khalaf, the police chief in the nearby town of Dhuluiyah.

Some of those killed were from other Arab countries, he said without naming them, adding that the bodies had been sent to the main hospital in the northern city of Tikrit for identification.

US and Iraqi forces have allied with local tribes and ex-insurgents over the past two years to drive Al-Qaeda out of most of its former strongholds.

But attacks against security forces and civilians bearing the hallmarks of the terror group are still common in some parts of the country, including the capital.

At least 150 people were killed in attacks in Iraq over the past week, including 65 people who died in a twin suicide bombing on Friday outside Baghdad's most holy Shiite shrine.

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