U.S.: Air strikes kill seven insurgents
Police report dozens of civilians also killed
A U.S. Kiowa Warrior helicopter on patrol in Iraq.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Air strikes have flattened insurgent safe houses used by militants linked to al Qaeda in western Iraq, the U.S. Marines told CNN Tuesday.
The air attacks near the Syrian border killed at least seven militants, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force said.
A top operative called Abu Islam was among the dead, the force said.
Police in Baghdad reported that 56 civilians were killed in the strikes.
They said police contacts in the region told them 40 civilians died in one house and 16 in another. Two children survived, they added.
A U.S. military spokesman said he had no specifics yet on the strike.
Lt. Col. Steve Boylan of the Coalition Press Information Center said: "We target only military targets and take precautions on any type of civilian casualties on all of our operations."
CNN could not independently verify the report of civilian deaths.
The three air strikes were ordered on Husayba and Karabila, near Qaim, after tips were received, officials told CNN.
Four 500-pound bombs were dropped on a house outside Husayba in the first raid at 6:20 a.m. (10:20 p.m. Monday ET), a statement said.
Two more bombs were later dropped on a house the Marines said was occupied by Abu Islam.
In the third attack, two bombs were aimed at a house in Karabila where militants sought refuge after the first strike, the statement said.
The attacks were the latest combat in continued hostilities reported in the border region.
On Friday, Marine planes pounded a suspected safe house in Husayba where about 50 insurgents were said to be staying, the day after three U.S. soldiers died in a roadside bombing in the town.
U.S. pilot killed
A U.S. pilot was killed and a second was wounded when a U.S. helicopter was hit by small-arms fire in northern Iraq, a military spokesman said.
The attack on the UH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter came while it was flying over Tal Afar.
The aircraft went down, but the wounded pilot was able to get the helicopter airborne again and left the immediate area.
The number of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war stands at 1,878.
Violence continues in Iraq as politicians try to move forward with the constitutional process.
In separate incidents Monday, gunmen assassinated the brother of the former governor of Baghdad and an official assigned to the Iraqi Elections Commission. (Full story)
The killings came a day after Iraq's constitutional committee approved a final draft of the Iraqi constitution and put it before the National Assembly, despite the rejection of Sunni Arab leaders. (Full story)
It will go to the Iraqi people, who will vote by October 15.
CNN's Cal Perry contributed to this report.
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