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US strike on house said to kill Iraqi family of 12

BAGHDAD -- US pilots targeting a house where they believed insurgents had taken shelter killed a family of 12, Iraqi officials said yesterday. The dead included women and children whose bodies were recovered in the nightclothes and blankets in which they had apparently been sleeping.

A Post special correspondent watched as the corpses of three women and three boys who appeared to be younger than 10 were removed yesterday from the house outside the town of Baiji, 150 miles north of Baghdad.

A US military spokesman said that US forces take every precaution to prevent civilian casualties and that they were working with Iraqi authorities to determine what happened at the farmhouse in Baiji. ''We continue to see terrorists and insurgents using civilians in an attempt to shield themselves," Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a military spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The Associated Press Television News showed footage of men carrying several bodies, wrapped in carpets, from the wreckage of the house. The men chanted prayers: ''There is no god but God."

The United States has steadily intensified its use of airstrikes against insurgents in Iraq in the past year, increasing the number of attacks from 25 in January 2005 to 120 in November.

The US military says that it does not count civilian deaths from American attacks, and that investigating deaths caused by any one strike is often impractical in dangerous insurgent areas. But some analysts say the US military should make a systematic effort, both to test the reliability of its intelligence and to better learn how to reduce civilian casualties.

A US military statement said that an unmanned US drone detected three men digging a hole in a road in the area. Insurgents regularly bury bombs along roads in the area to target US or Iraqi convoys. The three men were tracked to a building, which US forces then hit with precision-guided munitions, the statement said.

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