Civilian deaths in US military strike bring worries of Sunni backlash

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February 5, 2008 03:19

 
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The deaths of nine civilians, including a child, in a US airstrike south of Baghdad have raised fresh concerns about the military's ability to distinguish friend from foe in a campaign to uproot insurgents from Sunni areas on the capital's doorstep. Witnesses and Iraqi police said helicopters strafed a house Saturday after confusing US-allied Sunni fighters for extremists in the deadliest case of mistaken identity since November. The US military on Monday confirmed the civilian deaths, but gave few other details of the Army gunship attack. The bloodshed also points to the wider complications for US-led offensives against insurgents in populated areas: As the firepower increases so do the risks of claiming innocent lives. And each such death potentially frays the crucial alliances between the Pentagon and new Sunni allies, widely known as Awakening Councils. It was one of these groups that apparently was caught in the clash near Iskandariyah, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Baghdad - an area where US-led forces stepped up an air and ground assault last month against al-Qaida in Iraq footholds

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