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US, Iraqi Forces Battle Insurgents in Baghdad

24 January 2007

Gunfire and explosions could be heard for hours in Baghdad as coalition and Iraqi forces fought gunmen in the central part of the city. VOA's Jim Randle is in Baghdad, where officials report one U.S. soldier was killed and two more were wounded.

The fighting started early in the morning in an area near Haifa Street known as a Sunni stronghold.

Small arms fire and the boom of rocket-propelled grenades were clearly audible in the International Zone, a short distance away to the south.

Attack helicopters circled over the area for hours, presumably spotting the location of insurgent groups for U.S. and Iraqi ground forces.

The U.S. military said the fighting began as Iraqi and U.S. soldiers tried to capture militants in the area. Seven suspected militants were captured, along with weapons, including large artillery shells and anti-tank rounds.

Earlier this month, U.S. and Iraqi troops fought with insurgents in the same area.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a motorcade carrying Iraq's minister of higher education, Abed Dhiab al-Ajili, killing one of his guards

Coalition forces also reported the capture of three suspected terrorists linked to al-Qaida north of Baghdad.

Separately, the U.S. military said two Marines were killed in combat in al-Anbar province.

As fighting continued in Baghdad, some residents said they were skeptical that President Bush's new security plan will make the city safer.

Mr. Bush used a key speech Tuesday to ask the U.S. Congress and the American people for patience and the time needed to give the new plan a chance to work.

It involves moving more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, most of them to Baghdad.

Iraqi Parliament member Maysoon al-Demluji said nothing has stopped the violence.

"A number of plans were put forward previously; I think ordinary Iraqis will believe it when they see it," she said.

Al-Demluji represents constituents in the city of Mosul.

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