US forces fire on civilian vehicle, killing at least three people

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American troops fired mistakenly at a civilian vehicle outside an American military base north of Baghdad today, killing at least three people, including one child, a US spokesman said.

A US soldier protecting vehicles returning to a US base in the city of Baqouba fired on a vehicle that he thought was moving erratically, said Major Steven Warren of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

Five people returning from a relative's funeral, including three children, were killed and two others wounded, according to Dr Ahmed Fouad of the Baqouba city morgue and the local police command. But US officials said they only knew of three deaths in the incident, including one child, and three others wounded.

Associated Press photographs taken at the morgue showed at least two dead children and a man, but Warren said some of the dead may have been victims of a car bombing in the nearby village of Kanan.

"They fired warning shots, but the vehicle kept moving and the gunner had to make a decision and he engaged them," said Warren. U.S. troops performed first aid to the victims and later transported them to a nearby hospital, Warren said.

"It was one of these regrettable, tragic incidents and it wouldn't happen if Zarqawi (followers) weren't driving" car bombs, said Warren, referring to terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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