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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
US air strike in Baghdad kills 14
A Washash resident inspects the damage caused by the US air strike (6 September 2007)
Local residents denied militants had attacked US forces before the strike
At least 14 people have been killed and nine wounded in a US air strike overnight in the west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, police have said.

Several houses were destroyed in the attack, which took place at about 0300 (2300 GMT) in the Washash neighbourhood of the city's Mansour district.

The US military said it had targeted Shia extremists in "enemy strongholds".

Mansour is mostly Sunni, but there is a pocket where there is strong support for Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.

The BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says US forces have launched several operations against what they call rogue elements of the group in recent weeks.

The radical Shia cleric suspended its activities for six months just over a week ago, but there are many dissidents who think they should continue fighting, our correspondents says.

'Extremists'

The US military said Iraqi soldiers and US Special Forces had called in the air strikes in Washash when they came under fire during an operation targeting a number of "Shia extremist militants".

We are a peaceful neighbourhood - there are no militia here
Ammar Assem
Local resident

It said the militants were responsible for attacking local police, erecting illegal checkpoints, and killing local Sunni Arabs.

"When Iraqi and US Special Forces members entered the area, they immediately came under fire from more than a dozen extremists firing from the rooftops of surrounding buildings," a statement said.

The soldiers then directed aircraft fire on two buildings where the gunmen were holed up, the military said, adding that the response was both "proportional" and "well-aimed".

Baghdad map

But a local resident, Abu Ali Saad, said that everyone in the neighbourhood had been sleeping and that he had heard no exchanges of fire before the US-led troops arrived.

"We are a peaceful neighbourhood. There are no militia here," he told the AFP news agency.

"The tanks started firing then the helicopters came. Missiles were fired from the air. Houses were destroyed. A family of five were killed in this house," he said, pointing to the remains of his neighbour's home.

Another local resident, Ammar Assem, said he had been prevented from taking two of his wounded neighbours to hospital.

"They fired on my car when I tried to leave the area. I had to go back," he said.

Several wounded were later admitted to the nearby Yarmouk hospital.




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