11 killed as US-led strike hits Iraqi forces

BAGHDAD: An air strike by the US-led coalition battling the IS group hit Iraqi security personnel on Saturday, officials said, in an apparent mistake that killed eleven people. The friendly fire incident drew swift criticism of the US military presence in Iraq. “Eleven people — a senior intelligence official were killed by a US strike on the centre of Al Baghdadi,” a town in western Iraq, a provincial official said, asking not to be identified.
“It seems the strike was a mistake,” the official said of the incident in the Euphrates Valley town, adjacent to the Ain al Asad airbase 250 km west of the capital. Those killed were travelling in a convoy which had been deployed to support a dawn raid on suspected IS militants in the area.
Despite the government’s declaration of victory over IS last month, the group remains active underground in several regions of Iraq, particularly along the
Euphrates Valley and in the vast desert to its west.
The US-led strike destroyed most of the vehicles in the convoy and also wounded 20 people, including the town’s police chief, who was in a serious condition, the provincial official said.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, which coordinates the country’s campaign against IS, said it had ordered a special forces raid in the town after receiving intelligence of a “meeting to be attended by terrorist commander Karim al Samarmad”.
It said it had requested “air support from the international coalition”.
“Once the terrorist was arrested and while troops were carrying out searches, a grenade was thrown from an adjacent building.”
As the special forces troops withdrew to base, they ran into a convoy of police and paramilitaries of the Hashed al Shaabi auxiliary force that had been sent to support them.
The convoy was composed of pick-up trucks and the returning forces mistook them for the militants and called in a coalition air strike, the JOC said, lamenting the lack of coordination.
“An inquiry has been opened,” it added.
Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said the strike had been carried out at the request of Iraqi forces, who would take the lead in investigating any failings.
“Anything we do in Iraq is in support of the Iraqi security forces. We were asked for support and we provided it,” Dillon said.— AFP