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US Air Strike Mistakenly Hits Kurdish Police in Iraq

An American airstrike targeting suspected insurgents in the northern Iraqi city Mosul has instead killed at least five Kurdish guards. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Iraqi Kurdistan that the deaths come as Kurdish forces join the new crackdown against sectarian militias.

The guards were stationed outside the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or P.U.K., a political party headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

U.S. military officials said they received word that insurgents allied with al Qaida in Iraq were in a bunker in the area in eastern Mosul. Helicopter gunships fired on the target, but the strikes hit some of the Kurdish positions, killing at least five troops and wounding several others. U.S. officials later issued an apology for the incident.

Kurdish forces called "Peshmerga," meaning "those who face death," have long been allies of the United States in Iraq and they were recently called on to join the effort to rein in sectarian militias in Baghdad.

On Friday neighbors of three of the victims of the airstrike gathered at the men's homes.

Kurdish television broadcast images of the mourning crowds and interviewed some people who complained about friendly fire killings involving U.S. forces. One peshmerga who escaped the strike describe the incident.

This guard said two helicopters attacked the bunker, but most of the troops inside were able to escape.

Many peshmerga forces have joined Iraqi military units. Thousands more are deployed throughout Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and are heavily involved in security operations in the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. Some 4,000 Peshmerga fighters are expected to deploy to Baghdad for the new security offensive in the coming weeks.