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Iraqis fault U.S. account of airstrike

The U.S. military said that 20 insurgents, including two women, were killed in a raid and subsequent airstrike Friday on a predominantly Sunni village northwest of Baghdad, but local officials alleged the dead were civilians, including eight children.

In southern Iraq, British and Danish forces hunted Shiite militiamen blamed for recent attacks, conducting a predawn raid described by coalition officials as the largest offensive in the area since the war began. The officials said five Iraqis were detained.

The twin raids capped a week of violence in Iraq and came as Washington debated a report urging the gradual shift of coalition forces out of combat and into training roles. The report by the Iraq Study Group on Wednesday said this would prepare Iraqi forces to take over security and allow U.S. troops to go home.

The U.S. military said Friday that two soldiers were killed and two were wounded in an explosion south of Baghdad after they left their vehicles to examine a suspected roadside bomb.

A third U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb Thursday in western Baghdad, the military said.

At least 47 Iraqis were killed or found dead Friday, including 25 who died when mortar shells landed in a Shiite neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital.

In the raid that the U.S. military said left 20 insurgents dead, the U.S.-led coalition attacked al-Qaida-linked militants in a predominantly Sunni area near Lake Tharthar in Salahuddin province northwest of Baghdad.

Amir Fayadh, mayor of Ishaqi, a village east of the lake, and local police disputed the claim that the strike killed only insurgents. He alleged that 19 civilians were among the dead, including seven women and eight children.


Bush seeks ideas

President Bush met with lawmakers Friday and lined up three days of urgent talks with military brass, diplomats and outside experts to hear their ideas on the Iraq war. He goes to the State Department on Monday for talks and then meets in the Oval Office with independent experts. In a video conference Tuesday, he confers with military commanders and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. On Wednesday, he meets with officials at the Pentagon.

Associated Press