Once Notorious Baghdad Street Now Peaceful

ByABC News
June 29, 2005, 5:17 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 29, 2005 — -- Haifa Street -- one of Baghdad's busiest avenues -- has become a model of the transformation the Bush administration would like to see all across Iraq.

Not too long ago, the thoroughfare formerly known as "Death Street," located just south of the Tigris River, was a no-man's-land teeming with insurgents.

Today, it is lined with upscale apartment buildings and food stands. Morning traffic has returned, a testament to how safe the neighborhood has become.

But for much of last year, Haifa Street was off-limits for American and even Iraqi soldiers.

Insurgents set up their own checkpoints, terrorized local residents and ambushed coalition troops who dared venture in. The Iraqi battalion overseeing it lost at least 26 men to attacks.

U.S. soldiers interviewed by ABC News at the time said insurgent leaders were paying local men $2 for every Iraqi soldier they killed.

But in the last seven months, U.S. and Iraqi troops have restored order. Four key insurgent leaders were captured, their followers retreated and U.S. forces allowed the Iraqi army to take charge.

Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Almand said handing over Haifa Street to the Iraqis was a major step, "but a natural one because these are their neighborhoods."

Iraqi troops started independently patrolling Haifa Street three months ago. Not one has been shot or killed since.

"The people here didn't like the American troops," an Iraqi platoon commander told ABC News. "We're Iraqis, so people talk to us. They give us information."

A Haifa Street coffee shop owner thanked the Iraqi soldiers for enforcing peace.

"I couldn't even open my shop for five months because of the violence," he told them. "Now I can stay open until midnight."

Death Street is indeed a thing of the past.

ABC News' Nick Watt filed this report for "World News Tonight."