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U.S. Airstrikes Back Troops in Baghdad Clash

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At 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, about 400 U.S. troops from the Stryker Brigade rolled toward Haifa Street, meeting up with Iraqi army units along the way.

They arrived about 5:30 a.m. In the pre-dawn darkness, the joint forces took control of the buildings surrounding Tallil Square, a key target of the operation.

"We showed up in their living room for breakfast," Pearson said. About 7 a.m., the trouble began. "As soon as the sun came up, the insurgents began shooting," he said.

"We started taking it from all sides," Schaeffer recalled.

From rooftops and doorways, the gunmen fired AK-47 assault rifles and machine guns. Snipers also were targeting the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. U.S. soldiers started firing back with 50-caliber machine guns mounted on their Stryker armored vehicles. They used TOW missiles and Mark-19 grenade launchers. The F-15 fighter jets strafed rooftops with cannons, while the Apaches fired Hellfire missiles. But the insurgents kept fighting.

"They were able to coordinate mortars at us. They were able to execute well-aimed shots from the cover of buildings," said Capt. Robert Callaghan, who was coordinating air support for the operation. "There were mortar rounds that went off close to our vehicle. It was difficult to concentrate on my job."

Schaeffer was surprised. He was accustomed to the hit-and-run tactics that the insurgents typically have used over the past few months.

"We fired a TOW missile into a building," he said. "A few minutes later we started taking fire again from the building. Normally, that would have pretty much ended the whole engagement. They were fighting pretty persistently."

"The terrain was in their favor," he added. "It is about as defensible a terrain as you can get."

Still, Schaeffer said, the Iraqi forces appeared to be holding their own -- much better, he said, than in previous operations.

"It never felt like complete chaos," he said.

Building by building, U.S. and Iraqi forces moved a mile or so down Haifa Street, which weaves along the Tigris River. On every block, insurgents attacked them.


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