Marines kill seven in mob firefight

US Marines killed at least seven Iraqis as an armed civilian mob tried to storm an allied headquarters, military chiefs have said.

They claimed the Marines returned fire against the crowd which was trying to climb over a wall into a former government compound in the northern city of Mosul.

Brigadier General Vince Brooks said the crowd had launched an "assault" and as some tried to climb the walls other gunmen opened fire on US soldiers.

He said a group of special forces, Marines and civil affairs officers had gone into the compound to set up a regional co-ordination centre.

As a second group of Marines arrived they were attacked by the crowd, he said.

"The crowd was violent, throwing rocks at the Marines, hitting them with elbows and fists and spitting on them as they entered the complex," General Brooks said at Central Command in Qatar.

The Marines used loudspeakers to try to calm people down but the crowd turned over an ambulance and set it on fire and gunmen began firing into the air, he said.

"Warning shots were fired into a field behind the crowd. Fire was then directed at the Marines," he said.

"It was significant fire and aimed fire was then returned against some of the demonstrators, the agitating persons who were now climbing the walls. It was lethal fire and Iraqis were killed, we believe it was around seven."

He said the Iraqis had "delivered fire outside the wall as people scaled the wall - that's how you do an assault. "We don't know how many people were coming over the wall but it was clearly an assault as we see it right now."

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