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Women, child killed by US forces in Iraq

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Seven Iraqis, among them three women and a child, have been reported killed by the US military. The deaths come a day after the United States and Baghdad agreed to keep American forces in Iraq beyond 2008.

Iraqi security officials said three women and a man were killed when the minibus in which they were travelling came under fire in Baghdad's north-east Al-Shaab neighbourhood.

The officials said the vehicle was carrying employees of Al-Rasheed Bank and the gunfire wounded another two people - a woman and a man.

The dead and wounded were transported to Baghdad's Al-Kindi Hospital, a medic there said.

A US military spokesman said US forces fired on a mini-bus in Baghdad "after the driver failed to heed a warning shot".

"The bus was travelling on a street that is off-limits to vehicles other than passenger cars," the spokesman said.

"Initial reporting indicates that two passengers were killed and four wounded. The incident is under investigation."

In a separate statement, the US military said its troops opened fire on a car which tried to speed through a road block during an operation against Al Qaeda in Iraq, killing a child and two men.

Two men in a vehicle sped towards the checkpoint and ignored warnings to stop while troops were conducting the operation in Baiji some 200 kilometres north of Baghdad, the statement said.

"The ground force fired warning shots, but the driver attempted to speed through the road block. Perceiving hostile intent, the ground force engaged, killing both men," the statement said.

A wounded child was found inside the vehicle, and was transferred to a military medical facility where he died.

Two Al Qaeda leaders were killed in the operation, which also involved air strikes.

"We regret that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces work diligently to rid this country of the terrorist networks that threaten the security of Iraq and our forces," US military spokesman Commander Ed Buclatin said.

According to the Iraqi Body Count website, which keeps an independent tally of Iraqi deaths, between 77,333 and 84,250 civilians have been killed since the US-led invasion of 2003. © 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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