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U.S. and Iraqi forces battle al Qaeda stronghold

Story Highlights

• U.S. and Iraqi troops fight al Qaeda insurgents in Buhriz
• U.S. took eight hours to clear a half-mile path
• Real and fake roadside bombs stymied U.S. and Iraqi efforts
• U.S. has taken control of area before only to have insurgents take it back
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BUHRIZ, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces waged a fierce fight Sunday against insurgents who claim control of this small town north of Baghdad where al Qaeda forces flew their flag at a police station in December.

The battle began Saturday and was making slow progress Sunday, when it took U.S. forces eight hours to clear a path less than half a mile long.

Their progress was stymied by a combination of real and fake roadside bombs. (Watch what it's like in the middle of a battle Video)

One U.S. soldier and one Iraqi soldier were killed and another U.S. soldier and Iraqi soldier were wounded Saturday, officials said.

In addition, seven suspected insurgents were killed and another 20 detained, officials said. U.S. and Iraqi forces also discovered some bomb-making material, according to officials.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken control of Buhriz, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, several times over the past four years, only to see Sunni insurgents take it back once they left.

The aim of the Iraqi and U.S. forces this time is to establish a permanent Iraqi military presence in the town so it can withstand any insurgent attacks.

In 2005, U.S. forces regained control of the town only after they bombed a palm grove -- dates are a main product here.

This time, insurgents had plenty of time to booby-trap the town with improvised explosive devices and to post snipers throughout the city. On Sunday morning, they fired rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms at U.S. and Iraqi forces.

U.S. forces on Saturday responded with Hellfire missiles and rockets, and used Apache attack helicopters on Sunday.

Most residents appeared to have fled the area, though officials said other parts of the village remained populated.

Over the past four months, Buhriz, located just south of Baquba, has seen an increase in the number of "al Qaeda in Iraq" fighters.

The jihadists have been squeezed out of the restive Anbar Province to the west.


U.S. and Iraqi troops move through the town.

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