RAMADI, Iraq - US marines fought a fierce six-hour gunbattle with insurgents in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, a spokesman said Thursday, in a fight local people said left several civilians dead.
Lieutenant Shawn Mercer said the clash erupted late Wednesday when gunmen attacked a unit of marines in the streets of east Ramadi with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, triggering an intense exchange of fire.
The US troops killed at least 12 militants in the battle, but called in an air strike when firing continued, "causing damage to a number of structures with multiple (insurgent) positions, finally ending the fight," he said.
"We have no reports of civilian casualties and there were no coalition casualties," he said.
Local people, however, showed an AFP photographer the body of an infant they said was killed in the strike, which levelled at least one city home.
And both the head of civil defence in Ramadi, Salah al-Faraji, and the director of the general hospital, Dr Hafidh Ibrahim, said four women and four children were among a total of 26 dead recovered at the scene.
Ramadi is the main city in the western Iraqi province of Anbar and a hotbed of the Sunni rebellion against the US-backed government in Baghdad. It is often the scene of intense fighting between insurgents and US forces.