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US troops mistakenly kill four Iraqi firemen

AFP | October 24 2006

American soldiers shot and killed four Iraqi firemen after mistaking their fire tender for one hijacked by insurgents, US military headquarters has said.

"After receiving word that a fire truck and its crew were just hijacked, coalition forces pulled over a fire truck matching that description," said a statement describing Monday's incident in the western city of Fallujah.

When the unarmed firefighters got out of the fire tender US soldiers opened fire and killed them, after mistaking them for armed insurgents.

"The suspected insurgents were in fact firefighters responding to a call. The fire truck number did not match the one of the hijacked truck. All four of the firefighters that exited the vehicle died," the statement said.

"Minutes later another fire truck was spotted and pulled over in an area nearby. The occupants fled. It was determined that this truck number did match the truck that was hijacked," it added.

American forces are often accused of using excessive and indiscriminate force in Iraq, although commanders say the problem is now taken more seriously and the number of wrongful killings has diminished.

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