American military forces accidentally killed nine Iraqi civilians and injured three during raids south of Baghdad Saturday, US officials revealed today. The incident occurred near Iskandariyah, when a helicopter air strike was ordered on a checkpoint after a convoy of US troops in pursuit of Al Qaeda in Iraq came under attack. Iraqi police said American forces had erroneously fired on Iraqi civilian guardsmen helping the US effort against Al Qaeda.
An investigation into the deaths has been launched and authorities have met with a Muslim sheik representing the community. The deaths were the most recent killings involving the mostly Sunni guardsmen who have been instrumental in the reduction of sectarian violence in Iraq. In November, 25 men were killed by US troops as their leader claimed they were fighting with the Americans.