- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

2:04 p.m.

BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, backed by American warplanes, battled suspected insurgents for hours today in central Baghdad, and 50 militant fighters were killed, the Defense Ministry said.

Elsewhere, a cargo plane carrying Turkish construction workers crashed during landing at an airport near Baghdad, killing 30 persons and injuring two, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Initial reports indicated that the plane crashed because of bad weather and heavy fog, a Foreign Ministry official said.

U.S. helicopters circled above the Haifa Street area where the battle took place, and witnesses said they had seen the aircraft firing into the combat zone. Explosions rang out across the area, just north of the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Shaker, a ministry spokesman, said 21 militants were captured, including seven foreign Arabs — three of them Syrians — and one Sudanese.

Police said the clashes began when gunmen attacked Iraqi army checkpoints and that Iraqi soldiers called for U.S. military help.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraqi forces had decided to wipe out “terrorist hideouts” in the area once and for all. “God willing, Haifa Street will never threaten the Iraqi people again,” he said.

Mr. al-Dabbagh also said followers of Saddam Hussein were to blame for the violence.

Haifa Street has long been Sunni insurgent territory and housed many senior Ba’ath Party members and officials during Saddam’s rule.

The Defense Ministry issued a statement saying 11 persons were arrested in the Haifa Street battle, including seven Syrians. However, the U.S. military said just three persons had been arrested.

A U.S. military spokesman said American and Iraqi forces carried out raids to capture multiple targets, disrupt insurgent activity and restore Iraqi Security Forces control of North Haifa Street.

“This area has been subject to insurgent activity, which has repeatedly disrupted Iraqi Security Force operations in central Baghdad,” Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl said.

Troops were receiving small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenade and indirect fire attacks during the operation, his statement said.

“Anyone who conducts activities outside the rule of law will be subject to the consequences,” Rear Adm. Mark Fox, another U.S. military spokesman, said at a press conference with Mr. al-Dabbagh.

Meanwhile, a new video of Saddam’s body surfaced on a Ba’athist Web site.

The 27-second video shows the late dictator’s corpse with a gaping neck wound, his head twisted at a 90-degree angle.

Apparently recorded on a cell phone, the video pans the length of Saddam’s body, wrapped in a white sheet. Voices in the background say, “Hurry up, hurry up,” and “Just one second, just one second … I’m about finished.”

It was the second clandestine video to have been leaked from the hanging. The first, released on the day of the execution, showed Saddam being taunted in his final moments and then dropping through the gallows floor.

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