U.S. Says 2 Children Killed in Iraq Checkpoint Error

Fri Apr 11, 4:52 AM ET

NASSIRIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. Marines said they killed two children at a checkpoint in Iraq (news - web sites) on Friday, when the driver of the vehicle in which the youngsters were traveling ignored warnings to stop, creating fears of a suicide attack.

Captain Jay Delarosa, spokesman for the 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit in the southern city of Nassiriya, said nine other people in the vehicle were wounded in the incident.

"Our Marines took action to protect themselves against what they thought was a suicide bomber," Delarosa told Reuters correspondent Adrian Croft in Nassiriya, adding that the driver had ignored repeated warnings to stop.

"Currently, we are providing the best available medical assistance to those injured," he said, adding that no weapons had been found in the vehicle. "It was a regrettable mistake."

U.S. forces manning checkpoints across Iraq are on edge following suicide attacks that have killed or wounded marines or soldiers checking vehicles.

U.S. military spokesmen or witnesses have reported several incidents over the past couple of weeks in which civilians have been killed or wounded after being mistaken for suicide bombers.

Delarosa said a vehicle, which he described as a minivan, had approached a U.S. checkpoint in Nassiriya at "a high rate of speed" at 6.45 a.m. on Friday.

"The vehicle was told numerous times to stop, not only by the signs but by motions by the Marines," he said in a statement.

"The vehicle...picked up speed and moved through the serpentine protecting obstacles in front of the checkpoint. The Marines suspected, because of the actions, that it was a suicide bomber. the Marines...opened fire," he added.

"Our command regrets this incident."

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