A leader of a Sunni group formed to resist al-Qaida claimed Wednesday that US troops mistakenly killed dozens of his fighters during a 12-hour battle north of Baghdad. He said he tried repeatedly to call the Americans and tell them they were fighting "their friends." US military officials said American troops killed 24 fighters and captured 16 in a battle in the same area which began as soldiers searched for al-Qaida extremists believed hiding there. Mansour Abid Salim of the Taji Awakening Council told Al-Jazeera television that the clashes erupted late Tuesday and continued until Wednesday morning. "Right from the first attack last night, we have continuously been contacting American commanders that they are hitting us, their friends," he said.