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Iraqi ambushes kill 1, hurt 3

By Wire services
Published September 30, 2003

KHALDIYAH, Iraq - Iraqi insurgents ambushed U.S. convoys with roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades Monday, triggering an eight-hour battle in which the American military sent in fighter jets, bombers, helicopters and tanks. One U.S. soldier was killed and three were wounded.

And in northern Iraq, U.S. soldiers launched two dozen raids, arresting 92 people and seizing weapons and ammunition. One of the raids involved the largest joint operation between U.S. military police and American-trained Iraqi police; about 200 Iraqi officers took part.

The two ambushes hit U.S. military convoys about 9 a.m. in the Sunni Muslim towns of Habaniyah and Khaldiyah, 6 miles apart along the Euphrates River and about 50 miles west of Baghdad.

As the major firefight raged in Khaldiyah, it seemed as though the Americans were pinned down, with the insurgents opening fire each time the U.S. patrol tried to withdraw. Eventually commanders called in jet fighters, A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, helicopters and tanks.

The attackers apparently hid in trees and shrubs lining the dirt road where the roadside bombs left four big craters.

Reporters saw four badly damaged farm compounds in the al-Qurtan neighborhood on the north side of Khaldiyah, scene of several previous firefights between the U.S. military and guerrilla fighters. Angry residents cursed at reporters who entered the fire zone after the battle.

Lt. Col. Jeff Swisher of the 1st Infantry Division defended the use of force.

"American forces are here to provide security for the Iraqi people. If we are attacked, we are a well-trained and disciplined force, and we will respond," Swisher said.

He said two soldiers were wounded and a civilian was hurt in the battle, from which U.S. forces did not begin withdrawing until about 5:30 p.m.

About 10 minutes after the ambush in Khaldiyah, a homemade bomb exploded as a U.S. convoy passed in Habaniyah, killing one soldier and wounding another, said a U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. George Krivo.

Six soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were wounded Sunday in nearby Fallujah in another roadside bombing, U.S. officials said.

Meanwhile, soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division launched two dozen raids in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, 120 miles north of Baghdad, and other areas in the north of the country, arresting 92 people and seizing weapons and ammunition.

The operations, which ended Monday morning, were designed to "break the back of the fedayeen," said Lt. Col. David Poirier, who commands the 720th Military Police Battalion based in Fort Hood, Texas.

"The people we went after are the trigger-pullers attacking the coalition," Poirier said. "We want to send the message that if you pull the trigger on the coalition, we will get you."

Of the 92 arrested, four were taken into custody in the joint U.S.-Iraqi raid.

Raids in the 4th Division sector have intensified after Iraqi resistance fighters shot and killed three Americans in an ambush two weeks ago just outside Tikrit. In a coordinated series of attacks and ambushes against U.S. forces last week, nine Iraqi fighters also were killed.

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