BAGHDAD — An early morning U.S. raid that left two Iraqis dead was launched without Iraq's permission, a serious violation of the rules that are supposed to govern American military conduct here, the Iraqi government said Sunday.
Six Iraqis were arrested in the raid, which was carried out before dawn Sunday by a U.S. Army unit in the Iraqi city of Kut, southeast of Baghdad. Two other Iraqis, a man and his sister-in-law, were shot and killed.
The U.S. military confirmed the raid but said in a written statement that the operation was "fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government."
The six people who were arrested and the man who was killed are suspected terrorists, the American statement said. The woman who died was shot accidentally, the military added.
The Iraqi complaint threatens to add to the strains between the Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the U.S. Amid a recent spike in suicide bombings, U.S. officials complain that Maliki isn't doing enough to reconcile with Iraq's Sunnis, whom many blame for the upsurge in violence.
Under an agreement signed last year between Washington and Baghdad, U.S. forces aren't permitted to conduct combat operations without first coordinating with Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi government officials maintain that the Sunday raid was launched without its permission.
"There was no approval given," said Col. Shawqat al Alusi, an Iraqi army spokesman. He said that a U.S. military commander had apologized to Iraqi authorities for failing to obtain their permission.
The U.S. commander told Iraqi officials he thought the unit that conducted the raid had received approval and that a misunderstanding was to blame, Alusi said.
Speaking by phone from Kut, Alusi added that the six who were arrested already have been released. Maliki has ordered an investigation into the matter, he said.
Alusi couldn't provide the name of the American commander who he said apologized. A U.S. military spokesman said in an e-mail that he couldn't comment on Alusi's statements or confirm that the men who were arrested have been released.
Several hundred Iraqis gathered Sunday in downtown Kut to protest the killings, said Jawad Kadhim, an official with the city's local police force. He added that a police captain was among those arrested by the Americans.
The U.S. military said in its written statement that the raid was meant to capture a terrorist network financier who helped smuggle weapons into Iraq for the Mahdi Army, a Shiite Muslim militia.
As U.S. troops approached the house they intended to search, a man with a weapon emerged, the military's statement said. "Forces assessed him to be hostile, and they engaged the man, killing him," the statement said.
It said the woman who died was killed accidentally after she "moved into the line of fire and was struck by gunfire." A U.S. medic attempted to treat her at the scene but she couldn't be saved, the military added.
Omar Hassan, a nephew of the man who was killed, identified his uncle as Khalid Abdul Munim. He said his family has no connection to the Mahdi Army or any extremist groups.
Hassan said the raid took place at 2 a.m., and that after his uncle was shot, another family member called a relative who belonged to the local police force. Several members of the Kut police quickly arrived at the scene, and the Americans then arrested at least one of them, Hassan said.
The U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that Iraq claims the U.S. violated calls for Americans to leave Iraqi cities by the end of June. It mandates a full withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by the end of 2011, though President Barack Obama has promised that most American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next summer.
Reilly reports for the Merced Sun-Star. Hussein is a McClatchy special correspondent.
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