US air strike ‘caused’ deaths of nine Iraqi soldiers

Defence secretary Ash Carter expresses condolences over fatalities near Fallujah

Iraqi mourners carry the body of one of the soldiers who  died the previous day in “friendly fire” from a US-led coalition aircraft west of Baghdad. Photograph: Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi mourners carry the body of one of the soldiers who died the previous day in “friendly fire” from a US-led coalition aircraft west of Baghdad. Photograph: Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images

 

A US aircraft appears to have mistakenly carried out an air strike that killed Iraqi security forces near the city of Fallujah, US defence secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday.

The Iraqi minister of defence Khaled al-Obeidi said earlier that nine soldiers died in the strike on Friday.

The US military is leading an international coalition that is waging an air offensive on Islamic State, also known as Isis, in Iraq and Syria, where the militant group control large swaths of territory.

Mr Obeidi told a news conference that the strike occurred when coalition air forces were covering the advance of Iraqi ground troops near Fallujah because the Iraqi army helicopters were not able to fly due to the bad weather.

Mr Carter said he spoke with Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi by phone on Saturday to express his condolences over the deaths. He said it appeared a US aircraft had carried out the air strike.

“That’s the information I have now,” he told reporters while on a trip to the Middle East.

“He [Abadi] and I agreed that this was an event that we both regretted and that there would be an investigation of it, but that these kinds of things happen when you’re fighting side by side.”

Mr Carter met with Mr Abadi this week during a brief visit to Baghdad to assess the state of the campaign against Islamic State.

Reuters