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Iraq Allies Claim Friendly Fire Killed 25

Iraqi officials said Thursday they were investigating whether American troops had mistakenly killed some two dozen anti-al Qaeda fighters earlier this week north of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, police said a suicide bomber killed at least six people, including one child, in northern Iraq, and the U.S. military announced the death of a soldier in an explosion in Diyala province.

A leader of one of the so-called awakening councils - Sunni tribesmen fighting to oust al Qaeda from their hometowns - told Al-Jazeera television on Wednesday that U.S. soldiers had killed dozens of his fighters during a 12-hour battle near Taji.

"The raids continued for more than 12 hours... despite the fact that, right from the first attack last night, we have continuously been contacting American commanders that they are hitting us, their friends," said Mansour Abid Salim of the Taji Awakening Council.

"The scene was horrible with corpses dotting the area, bodies cut into pieces by shelling," he said.

U.S. officials said American soldiers killed 25 fighters and captured 21 in a battle that began late Tuesday after gunmen were seen "in the target area" where suspected al Qaeda militants were believed hiding.

Large quantities of weapons including anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-surface missiles were seized, the U.S. said, adding that the raids targeted "senior terrorist leaders."

The U.S. has said the growth of such awakening councils have been key to a sharp drop in violence in recent months, since a U.S. troop buildup of some 30,000 reinforcements.

In other developments:

  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that unless the U.S. Congress passes funding for the Iraq war within days, he will direct the Army and Marine Corps to begin developing plans to lay off employees and terminate contracts early next year. Gates, who met with members of Congress on Wednesday, said that he does not have the money or the flexibility to move funding around to adequately cover the costs of the continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • A suicide bomber rammed his car into a police patrol Thursday in northern Iraq, killing six people and wounding more than 20, police said. The explosion happened in Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, said police Brig. Sarhad Qadir. The bomber's apparent target was the six-car convoy of a senior Kurdish police officer who escaped with serious injuries, Qadir said. Many of the 21 wounded were children who had been walking to school. AP television video from inside a nearby hospital showed a young girl in a school uniform, drenched in blood. A child's shoe could be seen peeking out from under a tarp covering corpses.
  • The U.S. military on Thursday announced a U.S. soldier had been killed a day earlier in an explosion in Diyala province. Four more soldiers were also wounded in the blast, the military said. On Wednesday, the military said three U.S. soldiers had been killed in separate attacks north of the Iraqi capital - two in an explosion in Diyala province on Tuesday and another by gunfire Wednesday while providing security during a training mission for Iraqi police near Mosul.
  • Iran's commitments to stem the flow of weapons and explosives into Iraq "appear to be holding up" and have contributed to a sharp drop in roadside bombs across the country, a U.S. general said Thursday. Maj. Gen. James Simmons, a deputy corps commander, said that in October, U.S. forces logged 1,560 cases in which bombs were either found or exploded. That compared with 3,239 incidents last March, he said.
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