BAGHDAD -- Roadside bombs killed three American soldiers Friday, and U.S. and Iraqi forces differed in their accounts of an overnight raid on a suspected hide-out for Shiite Muslim militiamen.
The U.S. military said American forces backed by attack aircraft killed 25 militiamen in the assault on the village of Jizan Imam, about 40 miles northwest of Baghdad. Some Iraqi officials, though, said most of the dead were civilians mistaken for hostile forces.
The U.S. troop deaths brought to at least 3,813 the number of American forces killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, according to icasualties.org.
Two of the soldiers died when a bomb detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad, and the third was killed in a bombing in Salahuddin province, north of the capital.
Both attacks involved the lethal armor-piercing explosives that U.S. military officials say are often smuggled in from Iran, which they accuse of supplying, training and providing intelligence to Shiite militias. The Iranian government denies the allegations and rejects claims that members of its Quds Force, a secretive military unit, are operating in Iraq.
The U.S. military said the Friday raid was aimed at a militia commander they alleged had ties to Quds Force agents. A military statement said "an estimated 25 criminals" were killed in a fierce firefight that broke out when U.S. forces raided Jizan Imam.
According to the military account, men armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers opened fire on the U.S. troops. The Americans called in airstrikes and two buildings were destroyed, they said.
However, some Iraqi security forces in the area said the shooting erupted because of confusion over the arrival of the American forces at 1:30 a.m. They said some residents assumed that the troops were attackers and opened fire, sparking the gun battle.
An Iraqi army colonel said four houses were destroyed and that the dead were civilians. He said it was the fourth time the village had been hit by airstrikes.
It is common for U.S. and Iraqi officials to have conflicting accounts of military raids. U.S. military officials say they fire only on known or suspected threats, but Iraqis say the Americans often strafe buildings occupied by civilians, causing casualties.
In southern Iraq, an associate of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr was fatally shot in what appeared to be the latest assassination stemming from a bloody rivalry between Shiite militias. The cleric, Sheik Yaser Yasri, was killed Thursday night, said officials in Basra, where Sadr's Mahdi Army is vying for power with the Badr Organization, a militia affiliated with the rival Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
Several clerics on each side have been killed, and there are concerns that as British forces reduce their presence in Basra, the bloodshed will increase.
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