An investigation has been opened into the shooting deaths of three Iraqi civilians by coalition forces near the city of Musayyib in the southern province of Babil, U.S. military officials announced Friday.

The shooting occurred Oct. 4 in the village of Abu Laukah, just north of Musayyib, near a “Concerned Citizen checkpoint” manned by a group of deputized local residents working with coalition forces, according to a U.S. military press release. Musayyib is roughly 40 miles south of Baghdad in the so-called Triangle of Death.

U.S. military officials did not release many details, citing the ongoing investigation, which will take up to 30 days. Military authorities did not say whether the latest shooting deaths were connected to the deaths reported last month of five women and four children in the village of Babahani, west of Musayyib.

According to a U.S. military press release, coalition forces had been conducting operations in the area “using ground and air assets prior to the discovery of the bodies” of the nine Babahani fatalities. An investigation was also opened into that incident.

It was unclear from the military press release on the earlier incident whether coalition forces were possibly responsible for the deaths of the nine civilians or had just discovered the bodies.

It was also unclear what part, if any, the Concerned Citizen group played in the shooting incident. The neighborhood watch is part of a nationwide trend that has — most notably in Anbar province — seen local residents join forces with American forces to combat al-Qaida in Iraq and that group’s extremist brand of Islamic fundamentalism.

Those alliances have been credited with contributing to increased security in several former hot spots throughout Iraq.

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