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U.S. says kills 18 in clash in Iraq's Samarra

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces said they killed 18 insurgents in air strikes and gunbattles in the Iraqi city of Samarra on Sunday after fighters attacked them, while police said five children and two women were among the dead.

Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Donnelly, spokesman for U.S. forces in northern Iraq, said about 30 gunmen, some in cars, had attacked U.S. troops in the Tigris River valley city, which has been the scene of fighting between U.S. forces and al Qaeda militants.

U.S. forces dropped a bomb on a car shelter where some militants were getting into a vehicle and opened fire from helicopters with machine guns on another vehicle, he said.

Earlier Donnelly had said the bomb struck a house, but he said that no longer appeared to have been the case.

“We estimate 18 dead insurgents,” he said in an e-mail. “No civilians we know (of) at this point, very well could be.”

Saadoun Mohammad, a police officer at Samarra General Hospital, said the hospital’s morgue had received the bodies of five children and two women killed in a U.S. air strike. He said eight people were wounded, including three children and a woman.

Donnelly said any civilian casualties were the fault of the insurgents.

“These thugs were firing errantly and with no regard for harmless Iraqi civilians nearby,” he said. “It is these heartless and hateful terrorists we aimed to defeat and marginalise in the interest of bringing peace and security to the Iraqi people.”