Coalition claims 20 al-Qaida militants killed in village battle

US-LED coalition forces killed 20 suspected al-Qaida militants, including two women, yesterday, in fighting and air strikes north-west of Baghdad, the military said.

The mayor of the village, which was the site of a US raid earlier this year, said 19 civilians were killed, including seven women and eight children.

In the coalition raid near Lake Tharthar in the predominantly Sunni Salahuddin province, ground forces searching buildings called in air support after they came under fire, according to the military.

More than 1,000 British and Danish troops, meanwhile, conducted a pre-dawn raid in the outskirts of Basra, described by coalition officials as the largest operation in the area since the war began.

Five Iraqis, described as members of “a rogue, breakaway” Shi’ite militia, were detained.

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