BAGHDAD (AFP) – US helicopters fired off missiles and insurgents danced around a burning tank as the US military and gunmen battled for nearly three hours in central Baghdad.
At least five corpses lay in the street, an AFP reporter witnessed.
The fighting broke out after a suspected car bomb exploded around 4:40 am Sunday (0040 GMT) on western Baghdad’s Haifa street, considered a onetime bastion of support for Saddam Hussein, where insurgents and the US military regularly skirmish, a US military source said.
The sound of heavy machine gun fire and Kalashnikovs reverberated for three hours from Haifa street, home to a nightmare urban war terrain of high-rise apartment buildings, perfect for snipers.
The fighting climaxed shortly after 8 am, when an angry mob pelted a burning US tank with stones and danced around the armoured vehicle, an eyewitness said.
A pair of US helicopters then swooped down over the neighborhood and fired off missiles and heavy machine-gun fire at the mob, causing the crowd to run, an AFP reporter witnessed.
One of the mob was waving a black flag, emblazoned with the name Tawhid wal Jihad (Unity and Holy War), the organisation of suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.
The US aircraft fire left at least five corpses scattered on the ground.
Just east of Haifa street, insurgents fired mortar shells Sunday morning into the Green Zone, the US and Iraqi government headquarters in Baghdad, a US military source said, but there was no word on casualties.
Insurgents frequently shell the Green Zone with mortars.