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US military: airstrike kills 1 in northeast Iraq

An American airstrike killed one gunman after a joint U.S.-Iraqi foot patrol was attacked early on Wednesday in northeast Iraq in what a police official described as a case of mistaken identity.

world Updated: Dec 02, 2009 19:07 IST

An American airstrike killed one gunman after a joint U.S.-Iraqi foot patrol was attacked early on Wednesday in northeast Iraq in what a police official described as a case of mistaken identity.

The airstrike was called in after five gunmen attacked the patrol as it was searching a building in the town of Sadiyah in the volatile Diyala province, the U.S. military said in a statement. But a police official said the gunmen opened fire on the soldiers, believing they were insurgents. A year earlier, the same house had been attacked by insurgents, the official said. The U.S. military in a statement identified the gunmen as "suspected members of al-Qaida in Iraq." It said four gunmen were also detained.

The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During the height of the insurgency in the nearly seven-year war, targeted airstrikes were common practice. But as violence in Iraq dramatically declined, the U.S. use of airstrikes has also dropped off.

The U.S. military has continued to provide air support during Iraqi military missions because Iraq does not have a functioning air force.

The airstrike was called in shortly after a firefight broke out at about 3 a.m. between the patrol and the gunmen, the statement said.

The police official identified the dead gunman as a member of the Kurdish security forces whose home was attacked a year earlier by insurgents.

The homeowner and his two sons had taken turns guarding the house since the attack, the official said.

"So he and his two sons opened fire, thinking that the house was being attacked by al-Qaida," the official said.

The police official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the media. Sadiyah is 60 miles (95 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad.