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US troops clashed with suspected Sunni insurgents holed up in a mosque north of Baghdad and launched an air-to-ground Hellfire missile into the structure. One American soldier was killed in the fighting, the military said Friday.
The soldier was killed and another was wounded when the troops came under fire from the Honest Mohammed Mosque about 11 p.m. Thursday in Tarmiyah as they targeted about six insurgents who were believed sheltered inside, said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, a military spokesman for northern Iraq.
The US forces then spotted gunmen on the roof and sent the Sunni mosque's preacher into the building to persuade those inside to come out after they refused calls on loudspeakers, Donnelly said.
"About 20 left the mosque and stated there was no one left in the mosque. This was not true," Donnelly said in an e-mail, adding those men were detained.
Troops could still see five individuals as well as the gunmen on the roof so the military fired the missile into the building, Donnelly said, adding that attack helicopters spotted three suspects running from the mosque but did not fire on them.
The wounded soldier was treated for superficial injuries and returned to duty, the military said in a separate statement.
A police officer and a witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution, said US troops stationed near the mosque came under fire before sunset prayers and the raid occurred as worshippers left the building after the services. The missile left a hole in the minaret, they said.
US forces recently have launched a series of offensives aimed at chasing Sunni and Shiite extremists who have fled crackdowns in Baghdad and surrounding areas.
Tarmiyah, a predominantly Sunni town 50 kilometers north of Baghdad, was the site of a coordinated attack involving a suicide car bombing and gunfire against a US combat post in mid-February. Two soldiers were killed and 17 wounded in that ambush.