Wednesday, January 24, 2007

US helcopters strike high rises in Baghdad

Obviously operations such as these will kill and wound many civilians as well as insurgents. Air attacks in densely populated areas such as these highrises show the disregard for Iraqi civilian casualties by the occupiers. The article also illustrates the increasing role of civilian contractors with the shooting down of a Blackwater helicopter. This is part of the increasing for profit aspect of warfare. Private contractors even provide security for the president of Afghanistan, US contractors of course!

U.S. helicopters strike high-rises in Baghdad By Ross Colvin and Ahmed Rasheed
21 minutes ago

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. helicopters attacked gunmen holed up inside high-rise buildings in Baghdad on Wednesday in what the U.S. military said was an operation to regain control of a major street cutting through the heart of the city.

U.S. armored vehicles firing their heavy machine guns joined the day-long battle between U.S. and Iraqi forces and militants in Haifa Street, U.S. military spokesman Major Steven Lamb told Reuters.

He said U.S. troops also fired mortars after coming under machinegun, mortar and rocket-propelled grenade attack during the operation to restore Iraqi security control of the Sunni insurgent stronghold, which lies within 2 km of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified compound housing Iraq's government.

"A lot has been coming from high-rise buildings. We are firing at terrorists in those buildings," Lamb said.

The battle came a day after President Bush told a joint session of the U.S. Congress in his annual State of the Union address that America dared not fail in Iraq and called on lawmakers to support his plan to send more troops.

Lamb had no details on casualties, but the Iraqi Defense Ministry said at least two terrorists had been killed and 11 suspects detained. A local resident said he had counted six bodies, all men, one of whom had a rifle lying next to him.

A local journalist said he helped transport 37 wounded people to hospital, including women and children, in three ambulances that managed to get through the security cordon.

Haifa Street, a long thoroughfare of high-rise buildings built by Saddam Hussein in the early 1980s, runs along the west bank of the Tigris River that cuts through the capital.

While the area was too dangerous for journalists to venture into, helicopters could be seen circling overhead amid the repetitive thud of mortar fire. U.S. and Iraqi forces said they killed more than 100 militants there earlier this month.

The Iraqi government said then the area was riddled with "terrorist hideouts" and said it had captured many foreign Arab fighters linked to al Qaeda in the operation two weeks ago.

The U.S. military said Wednesday's mission was "not an operation designed solely to target Sunni insurgents, but rather aimed at rapidly isolating all active insurgents and gaining control of this key central Baghdad location."

Battling growing Sunni-Shi'ite violence, Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has announced a major security plan for Baghdad, vowing to crack down on violence on all sides. But his aides stress it has not yet started.

Bush has said he is sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq, most to bolster the new crackdown, despite fierce opposition from Democrats who now control Congress, resistance within his own party and public skepticism.

"On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of the battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory," Bush told Congress.

The U.S. military said two U.S. Marines were killed in combat on Tuesday in western Anbar region, heartland of the Sunni insurgency, where Bush plans to send 4,500 fresh troops.


In Wednesday's Haifa Street operation, the U.S. military said "direct, indirect and air support fire assets were used in support of troops in contact from high rise buildings."

Two residents told Reuters they saw a large armored force of U.S. and Iraqi troops enter Haifa Street at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT). They said the shooting had died down by late afternoon.

The Muslim Scholars Association, a leading Sunni clerics group, condemned the raid as part of "a campaign of genocide" against Sunnis and said a number of buildings had been damaged and people killed.

Security sources said a helicopter owned by Blackwater, a U.S. security company, that crashed in the area on Tuesday was forced down after the pilot was shot dead.

Three others on board the aircraft, which had been guarding a diplomatic convoy on the ground, may have been shot on landing, they said, although other reports suggested they died when the aircraft crashed. A fifth person on a second Blackwater helicopter was also shot dead.

U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad paid his condolences to the security contractors, who helped protect U.S. embassy personnel, saying he had known them personally.

Gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of Iraq's higher education minister, Abd Dhiab al-Ajili, on a highway in southern Baghdad on Wednesday, killing one of his guards and seriously wounding another, the minister told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington, and Ahmed Rasheed, Aseel Kami and Alastair Macdonald in Baghdad)

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