US-led coalition bombs Iraqi police in fatal friendly fire incident

US-led coalition bombs Iraqi police in fatal friendly fire incident
A number of Iraqi security forces have been killed in an airstrike carried out by US-led coalition forces near a US airbase, Iraqi officials say, adding that the victims were mistaken for militants.

The incident took place in the town of al-Baghdadi, 170km north-west of Baghdad. The town hosts Al Asad Airbase, operated by US and Iraqi forces.

There have been conflicting report about the exact number of Iraqi fatalities in the airstrike. Reuters cited Iraqi officials who spoke of at least 11 dead, including 10 members of the Iraqi security forces and a local official. 

AFP, however, cited an anonymous provincial official who confirmed 8 casualties. “Eight people — a senior intelligence official, five policemen and a woman — were killed by a US strike on the center of Al Baghdadi,” the official said, adding that at least 20 people, including the town’s police chief, were injured.

According to Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC), it had ordered a raid in the town after receiving a tip off about a “meeting to be attended by terrorist commander Karim al-Samarmad.” JOC then requested “air support from the international coalition,” the command said, as cited by AFP. “Once the terrorist was arrested and while troops were carrying out searches, a grenade was thrown from an adjacent building.”

When the troops returned to the base they met a convoy of police and paramilitary forces that had been sent to support them. However, returning troops mistook them for terrorists and called in a coalition airstrike, the command added.

In the meantime, a US-led international coalition spokesman said all coalition airstrikes are performed at the request of the Iraqi security forces. “Any and all support comes at request/approval of Iraq; NO unilateral coalition operations in Iraq,” US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon said in response to the Iraqi announcement.

“The operation was directed by Iraqi Security Forces’ Anbar Operations Center, led by an Iraqi Army unit and supported by Coalition Forces,” CENTCOM confirmed in a statement to RT. “Several people were killed and wounded during the exchange, and the incident is under investigation by Iraqi and Coalition officials.”

The US-led coalition has been repeatedly accused by human rights groups of using excessive airstrikes, sometimes targeting friendly forces and failing to protect civilians. In July 2017 Amnesty International said both Iraqi and coalition forces “failed to take adequate measures to protect civilians, instead subjecting them to a terrifying barrage of fire from weapons that should never be used in densely populated civilian areas.”

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