Iraqi witnesses say five civilians were among those killed earlier this week by U.S. forces responding to an ambush on their patrol north of Baghdad.
Mourning townspeople say five of those killed were villagers mistaken for guerrillas, including a 70-year-old farmer and three of his sons. The U.S. military has not responded to that specific accusation, but has said U.S. forces target only those who are intent on doing them harm. U.S. Central Command says 27 Iraqi fighters were killed in the clash late Thursday when attackers ambushed a U.S. tank patrol on the outskirts of Balad, about 50 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital.
But the New York Times and Associated Press, reporting from the area, quote U.S. military officers as saying seven Iraqis were killed. The contradictory accounts of the clash come as the U.S. military conducts operations in central Iraq to crack down on militants loyal to Saddam Hussein's ousted regime who have launched attacks on U.S. troops in recent days.
U.S. military officials say American troops killed at least 97 enemy fighters this week in Iraq. At least 70 were killed during an assault on what the U.S. military calls a "terrorist training camp," northwest of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, U.S. military officials say an Iraqi detained by U.S. troops has been killed, and seven others wounded during a prison escape attempt in Baghdad. The military says guards opened fire in self defense Friday when the detainees rushed the guards, throwing rocks and carrying metal bars. One guard is said to have received minor injuries.