Baghdad A U.S. helicopter strike north of Baghdad killed eight people in a vehicle, including at least two children, Iraqi officials said Thursday, insisting all the dead were civilians. The U.S. military said six were al-Qaida militants but acknowledged children were killed.
AP Television News footage showed the bodies of three children in blood-drenched clothes - the eldest appearing to be in his early teens - along with the bodies of five men, at the hospital in Beiji, where the dead were taken after Wednesday evening's strike.
Iraqi and U.S. officials each put the number of slain children at two. The reason for the discrepancies between the two accounts and the TV footage was not known.
It was the latest incident threatening to alienate Sunni Arabs, who have played a key role in the steep decline in violence over the past year by joining forces with the Americans against al-Qaida in Iraq. Beiji, an oil hub 155 miles north of Baghdad, lies in a largely Sunni Arab area.
The strike came as the U.S. was trying to ease Iraqi anger over the shooting of a copy of the Quran by an American sniper, who used Islam's holy book for target practice.
In Afghanistan on Thursday, a NATO soldier and two demonstrators were killed at a violent protest over the Quran shooting.
Iraq has not seen any street protests over the Quran shooting, which took place earlier this month in a Sunni area west of Baghdad. But Iraqi leaders have loudly denounced the act, prompting a series of apologies from U.S. military commanders and President Bush. The U.S. military says the sniper was disciplined and removed from Iraq.