A civilian journalist was in the front line of an Iraqi fire fight today as US troops battled with Saddam loyalists in Mosul.

Two of Saddam Hussein's sons were later confirmed to have died in the attack.

An Iraqi diarist for UK's Channel 4 TV reported an intense gun battle and bombing raid as it broke out at a private house in the town. The diarist, medical doctor Yahya al Habbal, took digital photos of the battle and emailed them back to Channel 4.

"As I was going to the internet café about 2km from my home, I heard sound of bombing in the neighborhood with a huge number of American troops closing the area," Yahya reported on the Channel 4 website.

"A few seconds later, the choppers came, and a heavy gun shooting and bombing started. They were hitting the house of Nawwaf Al-Zaydan, the leader of Saddam's special guards."

Mr al Habbal, whose identity was kept anonymous during the war, works for two hospitals in Mosul including the Al-Zahrawi Surgery Hospital. He began reporting for Channel 4 in February 2003, although he was unable to report for nearly three months when the internet connection was lost in the second week of the conflict.

Mr al Habbal uses an internet café to email video and photos back to the UK TV station.

"We don't believe that anyone else has true access like he does as he often takes these pictures in places where cameras are strictly forbidden," Channel 4 told dotJournalism.

Channel 4 also reported rumours that two of Saddam Hussein sons had been killed in the attack. "Individuals of very high interest to the coalition forces were hiding out in the building," according to Lieutenant Colonel William Bishop of the 101st Airborne Division.

The death of Uday and Qusay Hussein was later confirmed by a US military commander.

Mr al Habbal later updated Channel 4 by phone. "It is calm in Mosul, everything is as usual. No special celebrations," he said.

"Some people are angry that there was no trial, but some say no, let them die in that way. The people are split 50-50. They want to see them on the air to make sure they are dead.

"People in the community I live in believe Saddam is alive and they will find him. I think he is in the north, maybe in Mosul. Nobody likes him in the south of Iraq."


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