ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A US and Iraqi joint force mistakenly killed eight and injured at least 10 on Saturday during clashes with local police and paramilitary tribal fighters in Iraq’s western Anbar Province, a provincial security source said.
The clashes took place at midnight when a US and Iraqi joint force raided the house of a terrorist suspect in al-Baghdadi town, about 190 kilometers northwest of Iraq’s capital, Captain Mohammed al-Dulaimi from the provincial police told Xinhua.
Both local police and tribal fighters were surprised by the operation and approached the site to identify the forces which resulted in clashes before US helicopter gunships shelled the police and tribal fighters.
The US bombardment also targeted a convoy belonging to Colonel Salam al-Obeidi, head of the town’s police, as the group was approaching the site of the clashes. The bombardment killed some policemen and Obeidi himself, according to the source.
“The Joint Operations Command received accurate intelligence about the presence of a terrorist leader, Kareem Afat Ali al-Samarmad, in a house in the al-Baghdadi district to meet with a terrorist cell preparing to carry out operations against security forces and citizens,” an Iraqi Joint Operations Command statement read.
“On the basis of this information, a force from the 8th Infantry Brigade was immediately assigned as well as air support from the International Coalition aircraft to raid the area,” the statement continued, adding Samarmad was arrested and the clashes took place with the local police and tribal fighters later.
The Joint Operations Command said they had opened an investigation into the incident and would release further information soon.
The incident comes after years of fighting between the US-led coalition, Iraqi forces, and local Sunni and Shia militias battling the Islamic State (IS) in the country and clearing regions in the area, including Anbar.
In early December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially announced the complete liberation of the country from IS. However, the group’s remnants and sleeper cells continue to exist and carry out terrorist attacks in some parts of Iraq.
The incident poses “serious and important questions” about the US military presence in Iraq, the role it wants to play, and the justifications for its existence after the end of IS, the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group in the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia, Qais al-Khazali, said on his Twitter account.
Senior Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also expressed his concerns about the incident on his official Twitter, stating the US bombing of the town of Baghdadi was a “blatant assault” on Iraq and its government.
“We demand accountability and punishment from the aggressors immediately,” Sadr added.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany