- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

BAGHDAD — Emergency rooms bulged with nearly 200 wounded, and commercial strips emptied yesterday on a day in which explosions shook Baghdad awake and the screech of helicopters precluded slumber late into the night.

Close to 60 people were reported killed during the day, three dozen of them in the capital, after insurgents before dawn unleashed one of the heaviest mortar barrages the city has seen.

Many of those killed in Baghdad died when a U.S. helicopter fired toward a disabled U.S. Bradley fighting vehicle as crowds swarmed around it, cheering, throwing stones and waving the black and yellow sunburst banner of Iraq’s most-feared terror organization, Tawhid and Jihad.

The dead from the helicopter strike included Arab television reporter Mazen al-Tumeizi, who screamed, “I’m dying, I’m dying” as a cameraman recorded the scene. An Iraqi cameraman working for the Reuters news agency and an Iraqi freelance photographer for Getty Images were wounded.

Young men and boys lay wounded and dying in the street as the stricken U.S. vehicle burned.

The street, long a stronghold of insurgents opposed to the U.S. invasion, was populated by Saddam Hussein years ago with his loyalists, including exiles from other Arab countries.

“They call this ‘Death Street,’ ” said Hussam Mehdi, a Haifa Street vendor of baskets. “No police, no American soldiers can come here without being shot at.”

Insurgents also attacked the infamous U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison on the city’s western edge with mortar shells and a car filled with artillery shells. Marines opened fire and the vehicle exploded before reaching the main security wall, killing the driver, a military statement said.

Three American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians were wounded when a car bomb exploded next to a U.S. Army convoy on the road to Baghdad International Airport.

Outside the capital, 10 Iraqis were killed and 40 were wounded in fighting in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, said a hospital director. In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen attacked policemen, killing one and wounding seven, while in Kirkuk several Iraqis guarding an oil field were attacked.

Tawhid and Jihad, a militant group linked to al Qaeda and led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for the day of violence, boasting on a Web site that it can “surprise the enemy and hit its strategic installations at the right time and place.”

In Baghdad, tensions on the streets reached a boiling point even as the debilitating summer heat finally eased.

U.S. soldiers closed off a major intersection as a convoy of American armored vehicles passed through, towing a still blazing Bradley fighting vehicle, oily residue spreading in its wake. Some drivers got out their cars to cheer, while others honked angrily at the delay.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers interacted with Iraqis in quite a different way, opening a state-of-the-art clinic in a poor section of town. Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of the Baghdad-based 1st Cavalry Division, said he hoped actions like the $4 million gift from U.S. taxpayers would help America to win the trust of Iraqis.

“When people have no hope, when they have no hope for themselves, their children and their future, many times they’ll turn to terrorism as a last resort,” the general said in a brief interview.

As the ribbon-cutting ceremony began with a Muslim prayer, Apache helicopters sped across the sky toward nearby fighting and explosions.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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