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Thursday, April 10, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

7 Americans killed this month in Green Zone; U.S. responds with air power

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military has resorted to its air assets to battle Shi'ite mortar and rocket strikes in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad's Green Zone.

At least seven Americans in the Green Zone have been killed in April.

Officials said the U.S. Army and Air Force have combined to fight Shi'ite mortar and rocket squads that operate in Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. Fighters from the Iranian-sponsored Special Groups and Mahdi Army have been pummeling Baghdad's Green Zone with lethal 107 mm rockets.

The army has responded with the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. Officials said Apache helicopters, in coordination with other air assets, have patrolled over Baghdad's Sadr City, the key source of Shi'ite attacks against the U.S. military.

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The air force has contributed its F-16 multi-role aircraft to bomb Shi'ite mortar squads and strongholds. Officials said the F-16, Apache as well as a range of unmanned aerial vehicles were coordinating in detecting, tracking and destroying ground targets.

On April 7, an Apache and F-16 combined to destroy a mortar-launching team and launch site in the New Baghdad district. The aircraft were summoned after an army observation team spotted insurgents bringing mortars to the area.

The mortar squad managed to fire two 82 mm rounds toward a joint security station in New Baghdad. By that time, an aerial surveillance team pinpointed the origin of the mortar strike.

Officials said the Apache fired a Hellfire air-to-ground missile that killed the mortar crew. An F-16 then dropped an unidentified low-yield bomb on the mortar site.

The Apaches and F-16s have formed what the military termed an aerial weapons team. On April 6, the AH-64 launched a Hellfire that destroyed a storage site for rails used to stage rocket attacks.

The military's aerial weapons teams have not succeeded in stopping Shi'ite mortar and rocket strikes. On Wednesday, at least seven people were killed when mortar shells crashed into apartment buildings in Sadr City.


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