BAGHDAD -- U.S. soldiers shot and killed a young Iraqi girl after firing a warning shot at a woman who "appeared to be signaling to someone" along a road where several bombs had recently been found, a military official said early Thursday.
The shooting, which took place Wednesday afternoon, happened in the volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad. An exact location was not given in a military statement.
The girl appeared to be "around 10 years old," said Maj. Brad Leighton, a military spokesman.
In its statement, the military said that "coalition forces fired a warning shot into a berm near a suspicious woman who appeared to be signaling to someone while the soldiers were in the area. A young girl was found behind the berm suffering from a gunshot wound."
Leighton, however, said preliminary reports indicated that soldiers didn't believe the woman posed a threat of being a suicide bomber, but rather "they were afraid she was signaling to someone that the convoy was going by."
In other violence on Thursday, five members of an Awakening Council were killed when unidentified gunmen attacked two separate checkpoints near Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad. Nine others were wounded in the attacks.
Awakening Councils are made up of mostly Sunni fighters who have accepted U.S. backing to switch allegiances and fight al Qaeda in Iraq.
The violence comes amid a sharp increase in attacks resulting in the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, where 12 Americans have been killed in the past four days. Most recently three soldiers died on Wednesday in a rocket attack on Combat Outpost Adder near Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.
The attack came a day after an American soldier died when a roadside bomb hit his patrol near Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad.
Eight soldiers were killed in a pair of bomb attacks on Monday, the heaviest single day of U.S. casualties since September.
Three of those soldiers died in a roadside bombing in Diyala, a violent province where al Qaeda in Iraq has been active. The five others were killed when approached by a suicide bomber while on foot patrol in central Baghdad.
The Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni militant group, issued a statement Wednesday claiming responsibility for the soldiers' deaths.
With the overall U.S. military death toll in Iraq nearing 4,000, Wednesday's killings mark a significant rise in deadly attacks against Americans.
At least 3,987 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an AP count. The figure includes eight military civilians.