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Heavy Fighting Rages in Baghdad

12 September 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The clashes broke out on Haifa Street in central Baghdad as the U.S. military pressed on with new offensives aimed at retaking control of insurgent-held areas.

Insurgents launched one of the heaviest barrages seen in the Iraqi capital for months. More than a dozen rocket and mortar rounds were fired from places around the Green Zone compound that houses the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi interim government. U.S. military officials confirmed that several mortar rounds landed inside the Green Zone. But there were no immediate reports of casualties.

As the fight raged on, a U.S. armored personnel carrier -- known as a Bradley fighting vehicle -- was struck on the side by a rocket-propelled grenade and burst into flames.

Four U.S. soldiers were injured but managed to escape as U.S. attack helicopters flew closely overhead. Witnesses and Health Ministry officials say at least 13 Iraqis were killed and 55 injured as U.S. helicopters attacked targets in the area. One of those killed was Palestinian journalist Mazen Tomeiziri, who worked as a producer for Dubai-based Arabic channel Al-Arabiyah and for the Saudi Arabian channel Ekhbariya.

Tomeiziri was struck by U.S. helicopter fire as his crew filmed him reporting from close to the burning Bradley. A Reuters cameraman also was injured in the attack.

Meanwhile, a car bomb on Sunday killed two Iraqi police officers and a 12-year-old boy on a highway in western Baghdad. A second car bomb exploded outside of the Abu Gurayb prison west of Baghdad -- injuring at least three people. Iraqi authorities say they think both of those attacks were suicide bombings. An Islamic website -- purportedly from an Al-Qaeda linked militant group -- claimed responsibility.

Earlier on Sunday, rockets fired by insurgents hit several houses in the Doura neighborhood of southern Baghdad. One unidentified resident says five people were killed -- including three of his relatives -- when rockets crashed into his hom.

"Two missiles landed here at 1 o'clock [a.m.]," the witness said. "The first made a hole in the roof from which the second missile entered and killed them. What is our guilt? We are neither terrorists nor Americans. They are innocent people. What is their guilt? We are living in a battle zone. What is our guilt?"

Iraq's interim Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib told reporters that much of Sunday's violence was related to a series of raids by Iraqi security forces trying to capture 21 fugitives. Al-Naqib said 16 were captured -- and that all of them were Iraqi Sunnis.

Meanwhile, Iraqi hospital workers in Ramadi -- to the west of Baghdad -- say at least 10 people were killed and 40 injured by U.S. airstrikes overnight.