OUTSKIRTS OF BAGHDAD, Iraq April 7 —
U.S. forces fended off attacks by Iraqi fighters roaming the
edges of Baghdad's airport in a seven-hour battle, then crushed
similar but sporadic raids Monday. U.S. commanders estimated that
150 Iraqis were killed, but there were no U.S. casualties.
The fighting began hours after a giant C-130 transport plane
landed the first known arrival of a U.S. plane in the Iraqi capital
since the airport fell into American hands last week.
Inside a VIP building, the troops found a hideaway believed to
have been used by President Saddam Hussein. It features a rose
garden, a hand-carved mahogany door, gold-plated bathroom fixtures
and an office with a false door that leads to the basement, where
soldiers found weapons.
The battle between members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division
and uniformed Iraqi soldiers began just before sundown Sunday, with
probing attacks from the Iraqis at the perimeter of the
The Americans called in artillery and airstrikes. A bomb aimed at
a crane at a palace near the airport missed its target but knocked
off a sniper and damaged the palace.
That initial battle ended around 1 a.m. Monday, but Iraqi
soldiers shooting mortars and direct fire tried to breach the
perimeter of the airport six more times through the night, according
to Lt. Col. Lee Fetterman, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd
Brigade of the 101st Airborne.
All of that fighting raged within 1,000 yards, but some Iraqis
got as close as 200 yards to U.S. troops. American commanders called
in the Air Force to bomb two Iraqi military compounds near the
airport, then used TOW missiles to take out three observation towers
where Iraqis had been directing the attacks.
The airport, captured in an all-night battle last week, is
expected to be a major resupply base for American forces and a key
to channeling aid to Iraqi civilians. It offers critical landing
strips that will let the military hopscotch over the 350-mile supply
line that stretches from the capital to U.S. bases in Kuwait.
Troops of the 101st fortified their position at the airport
Sunday, digging trenches and bulldozing sand berms. Two weapons
caches including one with 12 crates of shoulder-fired missiles were
found just outside the airport grounds. Troops also found 35
French-made Roland surface-to-air missiles in the airport
"It's fine right now," Staff Sgt. Jeremy Reed, 29, of Dothan,
Ala., said as blasts of artillery fire whizzed overhead. "We know
who's shooting at who."
|Soldiers, seen in this image
from video, look over materials in a conference room in a VIP
building at the former Saddam International Airport Sunday,
April 6, 2003, in Baghdad, Iraq. The terminal was used by top
Iraqi officials, allegedly including Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein. (AP Photo/APTN)|
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