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Iraq Transition

U.S. forces join Iraqis in 10-hour Baghdad battle

Story Highlights

Iraqi soldiers and U.S. forces in 10-hour battle with insurgents on Haifa Street
• Iraqi official says battle on Haifa Street not part of new Baghdad security move
• Plane carrying Turkish workers crashes north of Baghdad
• U.S. troops team with Iraqi forces to battle insurgents in 10-hour firefight
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- About 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops battled insurgents Tuesday in the heart of Baghdad in some of the fiercest fighting the Iraqi capital has seen in months.

Pinned down on a Baghdad rooftop by insurgent fire, U.S. troops crouched to avoid bullets ricocheting off walls, their every breath a thin mist in the cold.

Helicopters droned overhead, sending off Hellfire missiles at insurgent positions. Fighter jets patrolled the skies. (Watch CNN exclusive video of the gun battle Video)

Thunderous explosions rattled buildings, the salient signatures of both U.S. missiles and insurgent mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

It was some of the most intense fighting of the nearly four-year-old war, a 10-hour-long firefight involving almost 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops along Haifa Street in central Baghdad, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency. (Map)

Heavy incoming fire kept the soldiers trapped on the crenulated rooftop for at least two hours.

Shouting directions to one another as bullets zinged past their ears, the soldiers fired back at the insurgents.

"You keep seeing more movement west, all right?" one soldier directed another.

"Just remember from up here the elevation's going to be different, all right? So aim just a little bit above, so when the round drops you'll hit your target. Elevate yourself so you can get a better shot."

And moments later -- "Right there, right there! See him, see him?"

Elsewhere, soldiers darted among pillars, firing from behind them.

Sniper and machine-gun fire punctuated their movement.

At least 50 insurgents were killed in Tuesday's battle, which began before dawn and ended at about 4 p.m. (8 a.m. ET), an Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Another 21 insurgents were detained, including three Syrians and two Sudanese, the spokesman said.

About 500 Iraqi soldiers and 400 U.S. troops took part in the battle along a two-mile stretch of Haifa Street, said CNN's Arwa Damon. She is embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The U.S. military sent in fixed-wing aircraft and Apache attack helicopters to support the ground forces against what it described as a "sophisticated enemy." (Watch U.S. helicopters swoop over central Baghdad Video)

"This isn't a rag-tag bunch of insurgents running around trying to make trouble," CNN's Michael Holmes said, citing U.S. military sources. "This is a very coordinated operation."

The sources said the insurgents -- a combination of Hussein loyalists and al Qaeda in Iraq fighters -- include snipers positioned on rooftops, gunmen patrolling the streets in pairs who were "falling back and regrouping" during the firefight, Holmes reported.

At one point, insurgents fired machine guns and RPGs from a mosque, prompting U.S. forces to return fire, Damon said. The insurgents pulled back from the mosque only to return later and continue their battle with U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Recovering bodies

An Iraqi military official said the clampdown on Haifa Street is not part of the new Baghdad security plan, announced Saturday by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

That plan has not yet been implemented, he said.

The violence along Haifa Street began Saturday after Iraqi police -- trying to recover bodies dumped near the Sheikh Maarouf cemetery -- came under intense gunfire and withdrew, an Interior Ministry official. (Watch what makes Baghdad such a hotbed of violence Video)

The Iraqi army, which controls the area, became involved in an intense gun battle and requested help from the U.S. military, the official said.

At least 11 insurgents were killed and several others detained in Saturday's clashes. The fighting continued Sunday. Eight Iraqi soldiers were killed and six others wounded when they ran out of ammunition in the midst of a firefight with insurgents.

The Haifa Street neighborhood in 2004 was the scene of intense street battles. After they subsided, the U.S. military was able to turn over security responsibilities to Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Haifa Street harbors many "terrorist hideouts," which are the main targets of Iraqi and U.S. forces.

"The operations will be thunderous and stealthy to stop groups in that area from threatening Baghdad's security," al-Dabbagh said. "We're going to clear this area and, God willing, Haifa Street will never threaten the Iraqi people."(Watch Iraqis struggle to do their jobs amid constant danger Video)

Other developments

  • A plane carrying Turkish workers crashed Tuesday near an airport in Balad, Iraq -- about 50 miles north of Baghdad -- killing 30 people and injuring two others, according to Turkey's Foreign Ministry. (Full story)
  • Iraq's prime minister said Tuesday that he turned down a U.S. request to delay Saddam Hussein's hanging because he wanted to show Iraqis that no deal would let the former dictator escape punishment. (Full story)
  • Ambushes Monday killed 10 people in the Iraqi capital, including a family who were moving their belongings in a van through the city's Dora district when gunmen attacked, according to the Interior Ministry. (Full story)
  • Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali," discussed killing thousands with chemical weapons before unleashing them on Kurds in 1988, according to tapes played Monday in a trial of former Iraqi officials, Reuters reported. "I will strike them with chemical weapons and kill them all," Reuters quoted a voice identified by prosecutors as that of al-Majeed. "Yes, it's effective, especially on those who don't wear a mask immediately, as we understand," another voice, identified as Hussein, is heard saying on another tape. (Full story)
  • Two U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday in separate incidents north of Baghdad , a U.S. military statement said. The deaths bring total U.S. fatalities in Iraq to 3,013. Also Sunday, a British soldier died in a traffic accident in southern Iraq, the British Defense Ministry said. That death brings the British military death total to 128.
  • CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, Ryan Chilcote and Sam Dagher contributed to this report.

    Smoke rises over central Baghdad Tuesday as U.S. and Iraqi troops battle insurgents.


    • Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
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