Iraqis Dispute Identity of 25 Killed by US

Military says they fired first; civilians say militia defended town from al-Qaeda
By Emily Roysdon,  Newser User
Posted Oct 5, 2007 2:37 PM CDT
U.S. soldier secures an area from a helicopter carrying U.S. military and Iraqi Government officials for a meeting with tribal leaders to discuss cooperation and security matters at Patrol Base Murray...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – American troops killed 25 Iraqis north of Baghdad today, the New York Times reports, but accounts differ over why the Iraqis were armed. The US military said soldiers were fired upon by "criminals " involved in transporting arms from Iran; civilians in the mainly Shiite district of Khalis said those killed were part of a local militia that had been defending the area from al-Qaeda.

"We were not militias or Qaeda but innocent people who defend our honor, and the Americans are criminals," said one man injured by the US airstrike. The area is torn by violence between a Sunni al-Qaeda group and various Shiite forces. Though militias loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stopped fighting, some factions are still attacking US troops.