Baghdad's Fadhil neighborhood, a Sunni stronghold that has been the scene of much fighting, saw the beginning of a U.S. operation that began before dawn Tuesday morning with rocket attacks on several buildings from U.S. helicopters while "gunmen [apparently Iraqi troops] with belt-fed machine guns roamed the streets," Reuters reported.[1]  --  The fighting was "the heaviest battle in the capital since a security crackdown was launched in February," Dean Yates said, and two U.S. helicopters were hit with small arms fire before "fighting . . . shifted out of Fadhil into neighboring Sheikh Omar, an industrial area, and Bab al-Muadham district."  --  Yates noted that "[f]our U.S. soldiers were killed on Monday, putting April on course to be the deadliest for troops this year."  --  AP reported that "four Iraqi soldiers were killed, 16 U.S. soldiers were wounded" in the Baghdad fighting.[2]  --  Lauren Frayer said that "The resumption of violence was in stunning contrast to Monday, when a 24-hour driving ban left the capital eerily quiet on the fourth anniversary of its capture by American forces.  --  But just hours after the ban was lifted before dawn Tuesday, artillery fire echoed across the city.  By day's end, at least 52 people were killed or found dead nationwide in strife confined mainly to Sunni enclaves."  --  AFP also reported on the fighting in Baghdad, which killed a six-year-old boy:  "A rocket also slammed into a school on Palestine Street killing one pupil, the headteacher said.  The only Christian in the school, the boy was hit as he played alone outside while his Muslim classmates attended a religious lesson."[3] ...


1.

U.S. FORCES IN HEAVY CLASHES IN BAGHDAD
By Dean Yates

Reuters
April 10, 2007

Original source: Reuters

BAGHDAD -- U.S. and Iraqi forces backed by attack helicopters fought gunmen in Baghdad on Tuesday, witnesses said, in what appeared to be the heaviest battle in the capital since a security crackdown was launched in February.

Northeast of Baghdad, a woman suicide bomber strapped with explosives under an Islamic gown killed 17 recruits outside a police station in the town of Muqdadiya, police officials said.

Two witnesses in Baghdad said they saw U.S. helicopters fire on buildings where gunmen had holed up in the Sunni stronghold of Fadhil. Police and witnesses said there had been casualties.

The U.S. military said there was an operation in the area and that an Apache attack helicopter had been hit by small arms fire. It returned to base.

The Baghdad offensive is regarded as a last-ditch attempt to halt Iraq's slide into all-out civil war.

Abu Omar, a local journalist and resident in Fadhil, said the operation by U.S. and Iraqi troops started before dawn. He said he saw helicopters rocket several buildings while gunmen armed with belt-fed machine guns roamed the streets.

Another resident also said he saw U.S. helicopters firing at buildings. One flew off trailing smoke, he said.

Both said fighting now appeared to have shifted out of Fadhil into neighboring Sheikh Omar, an industrial area, and Bab al-Muadham district. Many shops in the area had closed.

Police said 33 people were wounded in the bomb attack in Muqdadiya, 90 km (50 miles) from Baghdad. It was the first major attack on volunteers for local security forces this year.

"I was heading to work when I saw this ball of flame between a crowd of people. I saw many people on the ground. Many had lost their limbs," said one witness who declined to be named.

Al Qaeda has been blamed for most attacks on police and army recruitment centres during the Iraq conflict. The last major attack was in December when 10 people were killed at a police recruitment center in Baghdad.

GROWING TOLL

Four U.S. soldiers were killed on Monday, putting April on course to be the deadliest for troops this year as more American and Iraqi forces deploy under the Baghdad security plan.

The latest deaths bring to about 45 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq this month, half of them in the Baghdad area. Between 80 and 85 soldiers were killed in each of the first three months of the year, according to military figures.

President George W. Bush is sending 30,000 additional American soldiers to Iraq.

A key element of Operation Imposing Law is getting more U.S. troops on the streets and assigned to dozens of joint security stations with Iraqi forces across the capital.

Three of the U.S. soldiers were killed and another was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol in Baghdad on Monday. Another was killed in volatile western Anbar province, heart of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

The U.S. military acknowledges the Baghdad security plan has increased the likelihood of more troop deaths.

"With more troops on the streets, there is more chance of casualties," said Lieutenant-Colonel Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Iraq.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Yara Bayoumy, Aseel Kami, Mariam Karouny and Ross Colvin in Baghdad)

2.

16 U.S. SOLDIERS HURT IN BAGHDAD BATTLE
By Lauren Frayer

Associated Press
April 10, 2007

Original source: AP

BAGHDAD -- A raging, daylong battle erupted in central Baghdad on Tuesday and four Iraqi soldiers were killed, 16 U.S. soldiers were wounded, and a U.S. helicopter was hit by ground fire at the close of the second month of the massive security crackdown on the capital.

Sixty miles to the north, in the mostly Sunni city of Muqdadiyah, a woman with a suicide vest strapped beneath her black Muslim robe blew herself up in the midst of 200 Iraqi police recruits. The attack killed at least 16 men waiting to learn if they had been hired.

The security crackdown, which began Feb. 14 and will see nearly 170,000 American forces in Iraq by the end of May, has curbed some sectarian attacks and assassinations in the capital. But violence continues to flare periodically in Baghdad and has risen markedly in nearby cities and towns.

The fierce fighting in central Baghdad shut down the Sunni-dominated Fadhil and Sheik Omar neighborhoods just after 7 a.m., the U.S. military said. After American and Iraqi troops came under fire during a routine search operation, helicopter gunships swooped in, engaging insurgents with machine gun fire.

Some Arab television stations reported an American helicopter was shot down in the fight, and showed video of a charred piece of mechanical wreckage that was impossible to identify. The U.S. issued a statement late Tuesday saying an attack helicopter suffered damage from small arms fire but returned to base.

Several blocks from the battle, a rocket slammed into a schoolyard basketball court, killing a 6-year-old boy. AP Television News videotape showed children's backpacks and books still open on classroom desks, covered with shattered glass and debris. Blood was pooled on the dusty tile floor.

Police said it was a stray Katyusha rocket that dug into the asphalt playground and at least 17 were wounded -- 15 students and two teachers.

The resumption of violence was in stunning contrast to Monday, when a 24-hour driving ban left the capital eerily quiet on the fourth anniversary of its capture by American forces.

But just hours after the ban was lifted before dawn Tuesday, artillery fire echoed across the city. By day's end, at least 52 people were killed or found dead nationwide in strife confined mainly to Sunni enclaves.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is visiting Japan, rejected an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal, as called for on Monday by his fellow Shiites in a huge demonstration in the holy cities of Kufa and Najaf. The demonstrations were ordered up by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political support put al-Maliki in office.

"We see no need for a withdrawal timetable. We are working as fast as we can," al-Maliki told reporters during his four-day trip to Japan, where he signed loan agreements for redevelopment projects in Iraq.

"To demand the departure of the troops is a democratic right and a right we respect. What governs the departure at the end of the day is how confident we are in the handover process," he said, saying "achievements on the ground" would dictate how long American troops remain.

Al-Maliki has repeatedly rejected setting a timeline for U.S. troops to withdraw. He has said it remains impossible to say when his forces will be able to take up full responsibility for security. Beyond that, his government is perilously weak and could easily fall without American backing, both politically and militarily.

The U.S. military announced the deaths of four more soldiers -- three killed by a roadside bomb and secondary explosion in southeastern Baghdad and a fourth in combat in Iraq's western Anbar province.

The roadside bomb victims had been conducting raids against militants in the area, and had recently captured five suspects, the military said in a statement. All were killed Monday.

At least 3,285 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.

In Muqdadiyah, most of the victims of the woman suicide bomber had taken police exams just days earlier and were assembled to learn the results, said a policeman, who would not give his name because he was not authorized to talk with reporters. Dr. Abdul Salam al-Jibour at Muqdadiyah General Hospital said 33 in the group were wounded.

At a checkpoint near Baghdad University, six civilians were killed when a yellow taxi car bomb exploded.

And in the southern city of Basra, British forces carried out a search operation in the Qibla neighborhood, where an exchange of fire left one policeman dead and 13 civilians hurt, said police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zeidi.

3.

WOMAN BOMBER KILLS 16 AT IRAQ POLICE STATION

Agence France-Presse
April 11, 2007

Original source: AFP

A veiled woman strapped with explosives blew herself up near a police station killing 16 people on Tuesday, as a fierce battle with insurgents killed four Iraqi soldiers and wounded 16 U.S. troops in Baghdad.

The bombing hit the restive town of Muqdadiyah, in the flashpoint province of Diyala that has become Iraq's second danger hotspot after Baghdad where five people died in a car bombing and deadly street battles broke out in the center.

Police First Lieutenant Mohammed Ahmed said the woman detonated her charge amid a group of people at a kiosk opposite a police station where would-be recruits were buying application forms to join the U.S.-backed security force.

Another 32 people were wounded, local police said.

Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Abdul Karim Khalaf confirmed that the bomber had dressed in the all-enveloping traditional black abaya, worn by women in the area, cloaking them from head to toe.

The attack was the latest evidence of stepped up insurgent and sectarian killings outside Baghdad where a massive nearly two-month U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown has seen American officials boast about signs of progress.

But urban battles with insurgents left four Iraqi soldiers dead, 16 U.S. soldiers wounded and saw two U.S. combat helicopters come under small arms fire in downtown Baghdad on Tuesday, the American military announced.

Iraqi and U.S. troops conducting routine cordon and search operations in Rusafa were ambushed by small arms fire in the Al-Fadhel area, and air assets were called in, the U.S. military said in a statement.

"Attack helicopters targeted by small arms fire suffered minor damage, returned to base and then continued with their missions," it said.

"Combined forces on the ground continued to work with attack aviation assets throughout the day to locate, identify, and engage and kill three insurgents targeting coalition and Iraqi security forces in the area.

"As a result of this small arms fire incident, one local nation child was injured, four Iraqi army soldiers killed and two wounded. Sixteen MND-B soldiers were also wounded in the attack," the military said.

Clashes were also reported from the southern city of Basra where British troops and Iraqi forces exchanged fire with gunmen.

The British military said more than 10 fighters had been "hit" and that one Iraqi police officer received gunshot wounds.

Facing its toughest time in Iraq, the American military is under pressure from sustained attacks by insurgents and militias, and also faces rising calls for troops to withdraw, both back home and in Iraq itself.

It reported the deaths of four more soldiers, three killed in two roadside bomb blasts in Baghdad and the fourth in the restive Al-Anbar province, a known hotbed for Sunni insurgents and Al-Qaeda militants.

The latest fatalities brought to 45 the U.S. military's losses this month, according to www.icasualties.org, linked to press releases from the U.S. military and Department of Defense.

But speaking from Japan, where he has secured 850 million dollars worth of loans from the world's second largest economy, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki rejected demands for a timetabled foreign troop withdrawal.

"We feel what will govern the departure of the multinational forces are the achievements and victories we manage to obtain on the ground and not a timetable," Maliki told reporters in Tokyo.

Although execution-style killings have fallen drastically as a result of the Baghdad crackdown, car bombings have continued. The latest killed five people and wounded another 10 people on Tuesday near Baghdad University.

A rocket also slammed into a school on Palestine Street killing one pupil, the headteacher said. The only Christian in the school, the boy was hit as he played alone outside while his Muslim classmates attended a religious lesson.

In another attack in Diyala, three people were killed when four mortar rounds hit a house in the village of Shaima, police said.

In the simmering northern oil hub of Kirkuk, an Iraqi soldier was killed by gunmen on an army base and a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party was stabbed to death north of the city overnight, said police Captain Mahmud Abdullah.

Three policemen were also killed when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb near the northern city of Tikri, police said.