EIGHT people died and 50 were wounded when US and Iraqi forces clashed with rebels in northern Iraq yesterday after they launched an operation to destroy an alleged militant cell in the northern town of Tal Afar.

A US observation Kiowa helicopter was hit by enemy fire and forced to make an emergency landing amid the fighting, said US Army Captain Angela Bowman.

American soldiers killed two insurgents and captured another, while three Iraqi national guardsmen were injured in the fighting, the military said.

In response to heavy enemy fire, soldiers on the ground were forced to call for air support and a warplane dropped a bomb near the town. It wasn't clear if there were any civilian casualties.