An American raid northwest of Baghdad on Thursday killed 19 insurgents and 15 civilians amid the heightened scrutiny of the dangers posed to civilians by the U.S. military and private security contractors.

According to a U.S. military media release, American forces launched a coordinated air and ground assault in search of “senior leaders” of al-Qaida in Iraq gathered near Lake Tharthar, a reservoir about 50 miles northwest of Baghdad. In the initial engagement, the aircraft attacked a “time sensitive target” and it was later reported that “four terrorists were killed on site,” the release said.

American forces followed suspected militants fleeing the initial location to an area south of the reservoir, where U.S. soldiers came under small-arms fire from a building, the release said. The aircraft attacked the second location after which it was determined that “15 terrorists, six women and nine children were killed,” according to the release. Two suspects, one woman and three children also were wounded and another suspected insurgent taken into custody.

In the U.S. military’s statement, spokesman Maj. Brad Leighton said “(we) regret civilians are hurt or killed while Coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism. These terrorists chose to deliberately place innocent Iraqi women and children in danger by their actions and presence.”

In a second media release addressing the killings, U.S. military representatives said an investigation into the incident had been opened, “as we do with all incidents that involve injuries or deaths of civilians.”

According to a report issued Thursday by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, more than 100 civilians were allegedly killed by U.S. airstrikes or raids during a three month period ending June 30.

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