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Sunday 26 March 2017

Iraqi soldiers killed in US air strike 'mistake'

US secretary of defence Ash Carter speaks to US and French troops on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Persian Gulf (AP)
US secretary of defence Ash Carter speaks to US and French troops on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Persian Gulf (AP)

US defence secretary Ash Carter has said an American air strike that may have killed a number of Iraqi soldiers seems to have been "a mistake that involved both sides".

Mr Carter, speaking during a visit to the USS Kearsarge in the Persian Gulf, said he has telephoned Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi to express condolences.

The US military said the air strike on Friday against Islamic State targets may have resulted in the death of Iraqi soldiers near the city of Fallujah. The military did not say how many may have been killed, but other sources said that about 10 people had died.

The air strike came in response to requests and information provided by Iraqi security forces on the ground near Fallujah, which IS controls, the US military added.

Mr Carter said the incident was "regrettable".

He added: "These kinds of things happen when you're fighting side by side as we are."

Mr Carter, who spent two days in Iraq this week, added that the incident "has all the indications of being a mistake of the kind that can happen on a dynamic battlefield".

A senior US defence official said there was fog in the area of the air strike at the time and the weather may have played a role in the incident.

Mr Carter said he told Mr Abadi the US is investigating and will work with the Iraqis.

Asked if he was worried the deaths might further anger Iraqi citizens who may not be happy with the American and coalition presence in Iraq, Mr Carter said: "I hope Iraqis will understand that this is a reflection of things that happen in combat. But it's also a reflection of how closely we are working with the government of Iraq."

He added that during the call, both he and Mr Abadi recognised that "things like this can happen in war".

Press Association

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