US military admits killing “non combatant in Iraq

BAGHDAD – The U.S. military, in the spotlight over murder charges against its troops accused of killing Iraqis, said it had killed a “non-combatant” during a raid in which an al Qaeda militant was detained.

A statement said U.S.-led forces killed the civilian near the violence-racked city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, as troops were securing the house of the alleged militant.

“While securing the initial target, Coalition forces noticed an individual acting suspiciously at a nearby house. They assessed him as an imminent threat, engaged and killed him. He was later determined to be a non-combatant,” it said.

The statement was unusual in drawing attention to the incident. For three years since the U.S. invasion, Iraqis have often complained of civilians being killed by U.S. troops and said those complaints were rarely investigated thoroughly.

U.S. commanders have ordered a tightening up of procedures to avoid civilian injuries in recent months. The new Iraqi government, following U.S. investigations into the deaths of 24 people at Haditha, has demanded U.S. troops be accountable.

The statement said: “Multiple women and children were present at the raid sites. None were harmed and all were returned to their homes once the troops ensured the area was secure.”