US helicopters targeting insurgents mistakenly killed at least five allied Kurdish militiamen in the northern city of Mosul. The military also reported three more American soldiers killed in combat, pushing the US death toll to 33 in the first eight days of the month.
Officials said the Kurds were killed just after midnight Friday as they guarded a branch of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a political party led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a key supporter of US efforts in Iraq.
The US military said the strike was launched after American ground forces spotted armed men in a bunker near a building they thought was being used to make bombs for al-Qaida in Iraq. The troops called out in Arabic and Kurdish telling the men to put down their weapons and also fired warning shots before the helicopters opened fire, the military said.
Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman denounced the airstrike. "This is not a good sign for the new security plan that they (US forces) have started," he said.
However, a spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Azad Jundiyan, said the party realized the airstrike was a mistake. "We are allied with the coalition; it was a friendly fire incident, not an intentionally hostile act," he said.