BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Tuesday it was reviewing an air strike on insurgent targets in a southern Iraqi city after local officials reported it killed 10 civilians, including six children.
In a statement, the U.S. military said two F-16 fighter jets hit targets in a street in the Shi‘ite Muslim city of Diwaniya after militants fired up to 75 mortar bombs and rockets at the Camp Echo coalition military base early on Monday morning.
“Coalition forces are reviewing the incident to ensure that appropriate and proportionate force was used in responding to the intense attack,” the statement said, without referring to any Iraqi casualties.
Hameed al-Juati, a senior health official in Diwaniya, told a local radio on Monday that 10 civilians had been killed. A hospital and a police source also said 10 people had died.
The hospital source said the dead included six children under the age of 12. He put the number of wounded at 30.
A spokesman for the Polish military, which has 900 soldiers in the area, reported nine people killed. It did not say that the victims were civilians but suggested a mistake might have been made.
“Multinational Division Central South expresses its deepest regret for the families of the persons who were killed and injured,” said the statement which was emailed to Reuters.
Television footage on Monday showed rescuers searching through the ruins of several houses on Salim Street, in the city’s Jumhuri district.
Diwaniya has been the scene of clashes between U.S. troops and Shi‘ite militiamen in recent months. The Mehdi Army militia of anti-American Shi‘ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has a strong presence in the city, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad.
The U.S. military statement said 25 mortar bombs and rockets hit the Camp Echo base at 2.00 a.m. on Monday, wounding three soldiers. The other 50 landed in the surrounding neighborhood.
“The bulk of the attacks were conducted from Salim Street, where insurgents persistently use urban areas from which to attack, in order to use civilians as human shields,” it said.
The Polish military’s statement said militant activity had escalated in Diwaniya, with Camp Echo increasingly coming under attack. “Our patience has its limitations,” it said.
The review of the air strike comes less than a week after the U.S. military said it was investigating reports that Iraqi neighborhood guards at a town north of Baghdad were killed in an air strike the military had said killed 17 al Qaeda gunmen.
The BBC first reported that residents were disputing the U.S. military’s account of the June 22 helicopter strike on the outskirts of the Shi‘ite town of Khalis in Diyala province.
According to residents interviewed by the BBC, the attack killed 11 men and wounded five working as neighborhood guards. Residents said those attacked had nothing to do with Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, the BBC said.
The U.S. military has said while it was investigating the incident, only the “enemy” had been killed. But it has dropped the reference to al Qaeda.