updated 8/6/2005 4:53:32 PM ET 2005-08-06T20:53:32

An internal U.S. military investigation has rejected claims by Iraqis that U.S. troops opened fire on civilians after a suicide bombing attack on Iraqi army recruits in a northern town, a U.S. Army spokesman said.

Iraqi police said 52 people were killed and 93 wounded on July 29 in Rabiah, 230 miles north of Baghdad. Most were killed by a suicide bomber wearing a belt of explosives who blew himself up among Iraqi army volunteers.

The U.S. military put the casualty toll at 10 dead and 21 injured.

Iraqi police, doctors and residents said some survivors of the suicide bombing were shot after the attack when U.S. and Iraqi soldiers opened fire at the scene.

Lt. Col. A.L. Hance Sr., a spokesman for Task Force Freedom in Mosul, Iraq, said the Tiger Squadron commander “has conducted an internal investigation and finds no facts to support this claim.”

Holes in walls
He suggested witnesses may have assumed holes in the walls were from bullets but he said they “could be caused by ball bearings that are commonly used in suicide type devices.” He added that “this conduct was not in character with how we train our soldiers and would be highly unusual behavior.”

Task Force Freedom is the headquarters for all U.S. military forces in northern Iraq, including the units in Rabiah.

Col. Yahya al-Shammari, the Rabiah police chief, said U.S. and Iraqi soldiers opened fire after the bomb went off believing that they were under attack and that some people who survived the blast were killed in the gunfire.

He did not say specifically that U.S. soldiers killed or wounded any of the victims but told The Associated Press that “Iraq and U.S. troops opened fire” after the blast.

One doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said he removed bullets fired by a weapon carried by Iraqi but not American soldiers from some of the wounded.

Al-Shammari, who blamed the Iraqi army for failing to provide adequate security, said families of four of the dead initially had planned to ask the Iraqi army for compensation but the matter was resolved “according to tribal laws.” He did not elaborate.

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