Civilians accidentally killed in Iraq

U.S. troops opened fire on a crowded minivan north of Baghdad on Monday, fearing a car bomb attack, and killed at least three members of the same family, including a child, the U.S. military confirmed.

The U.S. army's 3rd Infantry Division confirmed the incident, saying its troops had opened fire after first trying to wave the minivan to a stop and then firing warning shots.

"This is a tragedy," said Major Steve Warren, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Baquba, near where the shooting occurred.

Warren said three people - two men and a child - were killed and three were wounded, but the survivors disputed that, saying five members of the family, including two children, were killed and four were wounded.

One of the survivors told the family was traveling from Balad, a town about 80 km north of Baghdad, to the nearby city of Baquba for a funeral when they were shot at by a U.S. patrol as it approached them on the road.

Warren said the incident occurred near a U.S. military forward operating base as vehicles were entering the camp. He said U.S. troops frequently set up impromptu roadblocks in such cases and force all nearby vehicles to come to a halt.

U.S. troops are frequently accused by Iraqis of shooting at civilian vehicles at checkpoints and roadblocks.

The U.S. military says it does everything it can to ensure it does not fire on civilians, although it has also admitted in the past to accidentally killing civilians at roadblocks.

To avoid the possibility of being fired on, most Iraqis pull over to the side of the road when U.S. convoys approach, Reuters reports.


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