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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 20:14 GMT
Five girls killed in Iraqi clash
Map of Iraq
Five young girls have been killed in Iraq during a clash between US marines and insurgents in the western city of Ramadi, the US has said.

A US military statement said militants on the roof of a house had fired on its forces, who responded with tank fire.

It said soldiers searching the building found the bodies of one man and the five girls, one of whom was an infant.

Ramadi, 115km (70 miles) west of Baghdad, is located in Anbar province, a stronghold for Sunni Arab militants.

The youngest female casualty was six-months-old and the eldest was aged 10. Another female at the scene was injured but refused treatment, the statement said.

Fierce fighting

The fighting began after troops discovered an improvised explosive device on the roadside in north-east Ramadi.

The US soldiers say as the bomb was being defused, two Iraqi men took up positions on the roof of a nearby house and began firing at them.

The patrol first identified the men and then returned fire with tank rounds, the statement said.

One of the Iraqi gunmen may have been wounded and removed from the scene by other militants. It said the battle resulted in no coalition casualties.

Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Salas said that the insurgents' actions are felt by all and that efforts are under way to offer available assistance to surviving family members.

The BBC's Andy Gallacher in Baghdad says Ramadi has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting between marines and insurgents.

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