x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Civilians caught in Fallujah firefight crossfire

At least seven civilians and two Iraqi soldiers were killed when shooting erupted after a joint US-Iraqi raid in the Sunni Arab former rebel bastion of Fallujah, Iraqi officials said.

At least seven civilians and two Iraqi soldiers were killed today when shooting erupted after a joint US-Iraqi raid in the Sunni Arab former rebel bastion of Fallujah, Iraqi officials said. A US military spokesman confirmed an "incident" had occurred in the city, west of Baghdad, and added that an investigation would be started, but declined to give further details. He confirmed at least one fatality.

The shooting occurred this morning in the Jbeil neighbourhood of central Fallujah, long a base for Sunni fighters who waged an insurgency against US troops and the Iraqi government that peaked in 2006 and 2007. "A joint force from Baghdad was ordered to raid a terrorist's house in Jbeil," said Maj Gel Baha Hussein al Karkhi, police chief for Anbar province, of which Fallujah is part.

"Clashes took place when the terrorists fired at the troops. Civilians were caught in the crossfire. Seven were killed and four wounded. "In addition to the seven (civilians) killed, two Iraqi soldiers were also killed in the clashes." The Fallujah police chief Brig Gen Faisal al Essawi said five houses were raided. He said eight civilians were killed, including two women and two children. He said the other four included a former colonel in the Iraqi army during the rule of now executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Fallujah media chief Mohammed Fathi also said eight people were killed. Dr Omar al Delli at Fallujah hospital said four bodies had so far been received. Brig Gen Essawi said four other bodies had been taken away by the forces who conducted the raids. Maj Bryan Woods, of the US army, said an "incident" had occurred in Fallujah and added "there was a report of a fatality" and that an investigation would be started. He did not give any more details.

The US forces declared a conclusion to combat operations in Iraq at the end of August but nearly 50,000 soldiers remain in the country with a mission to train Iraqi soldiers and police, and conduct joint counter-terror operations. * AFP