A US airstrikes killed at least 25 people after troops met a fierce barrage while hunting suspected arms smuggling links between Iran and Shiite militiamen. The military described the dead as fighters, but village leaders said the victims included children and men protecting their homes.
In a separate incident also on Friday, the US military said it was investigating the deaths of three civilians shot by American sentries near an Iraqi-manned checkpoint. Iraqi officials said the victims were US-allied guards and were mistakenly targeted.
While details could not be independently confirmed, both reports reflected rising concerns about possible friendly fire killings as more vigilante-style groups join the fight against extremists and fill the vacuum left by Iraq's collapsing national police force.
Such claims could hinder crucial US efforts to draw Sunni and Shiite leaders into alliances against insurgent factions such as al-Qaida in Iraq. In a series of raids around Iraq, US troops killed 12 suspected insurgents linked to al-Qaida, the military said.