BAGHDAD, Iraq Roadside bombs killed three American soldiers Friday, while U.S. and Iraqi forces differed over their accounts of an overnight raid on a suspected hideout for Shiite Muslim militiamen.
The U.S. military said American forces backed by attack aircraft killed 25 militiamen during the assault on the village of Jizan al-Imam, about 40 miles northwest of Baghdad. Some Iraqi officials, though, said most of the victims were civilians mistaken for hostile forces in the predawn darkness.
The troop deaths brought to at least 3,813 the number of American forces killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, according to the independent monitoring site www.icasualties.org.
Two of the soldiers died when a bomb detonated near their vehicle in Baghdad, and the third was killed in a bombing in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad.
Both attacks came from the lethal explosives that U.S. military officials say are often smuggled into Iraq from Iran, which they accuse of supplying, training and providing intelligence to Shiite militias. The Iranian government denies the allegations and rejects claims that members of its Quds Forces, a secretive military unit, are operating in Iraq.
The U.S. military said the Friday raid was aimed at a militia commander known to have ties to Quds Force agents. A military statement said "an estimated 25 criminals" were killed in a fierce firefight that broke out when U.S. forces raided Jizan al-Imam.
According to the military account, gunmen armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire on the U.S. troops. The Americans called in airstrikes and said two buildings were destroyed.
Some Iraqi security forces in the area, though, said shooting erupted due to confusion over the arrival of the American forces at 1:30 a.m. They said some people in the village assumed the troops were attackers and opened fire, sparking the gun battle.
One Iraqi army colonel said four houses were destroyed and that the dead were civilians. He said it was the fourth time the village had been hit by airstrikes.
It is common to have conflicting accounts about military raids from U.S. and Iraqi officials. U.S. military officials say they only fire on known or suspected threats, but Iraqis say the Americans often strafe buildings occupied by civilians.
In southern Iraq, gunmen shot to death a clergyman affiliated with Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr in what appeared to be the latest hit stemming from a bloody inter-Shiite rivalry. The clergyman, Sheik Yaser Yasri, was killed Thursday night, according to officials in Basra, where the militia loyal to Sadr is vying for power with the Badr Organization, a militia with the rival Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
Several clerics from each side have been killed, and there are concerns that, as British forces reduce their presence in Basra, the bloodshed will increase.
Special correspondents in Baqubah and Basra contributed to this report.