US troops claim 20 dead in Baghdad gunfight


US forces came under heavy automatic fire on the west bank of the Tigris river in central Baghdad this evening, and said they had killed up to 20 "enemy".

Correspondents on the eastern side of the river, around the central Palestine Hotel, said they heard heavy machinegun and tank fire by US forces across the river.

The exchange lasted around 20 minutes, they said. US Marine Sergeant Daniel Finn told reporters that enemy fire had opened up on troops from six bunkers on the western river bank.

"We're not sure how many of them there were, but they opened fire and now they're dead," he said adding that he guessed there were 15-20 Iraqis or other nationals involved.

Separately, one US Marine was killed when a gunman dressed in civilian clothes opened fire on Marines guarding a hospital near the Palestine Hotel.

"We lost a Marine," US Marine Major Michael Purcell told reporters.

He said a group of Marines was guarding the hospital when a gunman mixed in with civilians, moved close to the Marines and opened fire at close quarters.