Fat Steve's Blatherings

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Copy write violation

Minneapolis Star-Tribune version of a story about Iraq, originally from the New York Times.

BAGHDAD -- U.S. troops and warplanes killed at least 25 insurgents who used car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades to try to overrun a U.S. combat outpost in Mosul on Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. military said. It was the fiercest fighting the northern city has seen in weeks. Fifteen U.S. soldiers were injured, military officials said.

The two-hour battle followed an ambush on Tuesday night in Baghdad where insurgents tricked Iraqi police into raiding a booby-trapped home and then detonated a powerful bomb that killed at least seven police officers and 25 others, Iraqi officials said Wednesday. Most of the civilian victims were family members who were crushed to death when the blast flattened nearby homes, the officials said.

The bomb detonated just as the police charged the home, in the Ghaziliyah district of western Baghdad, about 10:30 p.m. Ghaziliyah is a rough Sunni neighborhood loyal to Saddam Hussein that has seen clashes between gunmen and police.

House approached

Khalid Ahmad, a pickup driver, said one of his neighbors approached the house around noon on Tuesday to greet the new occupants. The occupants fired two bullets into the air and turned the man away, said Ahmad, who lives nearby. Ahmad said the man then went to the police and informed on the occupants.

Later that night, three police cars approached the house from the front and back, and police used loudspeakers to order the occupants to come out, witnesses said. The occupants shot at the police, and, as the police stormed the house, it blew up.

The explosion left household debris strewn about the street, and U.S. soldiers and Iraqi officials used heavy equipment to search for survivors. Two policemen and 23 others were wounded, officials said.

The insurgents' attack in Mosul came eight days after a suicide bomber killed 18 Americans and four others at a U.S. base outside the city by infiltrating a mess tent.

Serious firefight

The attack in Mosul began when insurgents armed with a car bomb tried to blow down the concrete barriers of the combat outpost, which is manned by a small force of soldiers. An armored military vehicle then sped to the outpost and disabled the insurgents' car and detonated its explosives with .50-caliber machine-gun fire.

The Americans were then attacked by a coordinated force of about 50 insurgents who fired rocket-propelled grenades and semi-automatic weapons. Close-air support was called in, and two F-18 and two F-14 jets swooped down on strafing runs that wiped out much of the insurgent force.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military began a significant offensive on Wednesday to root out insurgents around Mahmoudiya and other towns in the "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, the assistant commander of the First Cavalry Division.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have come under repeated attacks by car bombs, rockets, and small arms fire in the area, dubbed the "Triangle of Death." The latest operation followed a weeklong campaign in November and early December with the same ultimate goal.

U.S. commanders had hailed the November offensive to retake Fallujah as a major tactical victory, but violence elsewhere in Iraq has escalated since the fall of the main insurgent bastion 40 miles west of Baghdad. The vast majority of the estimated 6,000 guerrillas based there apparently slipped out to northern Iraq and the area south of Baghdad, which includes Mahmoudiya.

"We believe that many insurgents that left Fallujah settled throughout areas in Baghdad and specifically in southern sector of Baghdad and north of Babylon," Hammond said.

Also, the Iraqi government announced Wednesday that a key insurgent commander in Mosul was captured last week.

Abu Marwan, a 33-year-old commander in the Mosul terrorist group Abu Talha, which is affiliated with Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was seized on Dec. 23 based on tips from Iraqi citizens, the officials said.

'Key operative'

The Iraqi government described Marwan as a "key AlZarqawi operative" who was "responsible for conducting and commanding terrorist operations in Mosul, purchasing weapons for Talha's terrorist group, and coordinating the training of terrorist cells within the Abu Talha terrorist group."

In other developments Wednesday:

• The head of Saddam Hussein's legal team said that he has enlisted the aid of former U.S. Attorney Ramsey Clark in the exdictator's defense. Ziad al-Khasawneh said Clark was asked to help with the case after Saddam told his Iraqi lawyer last week to convey his regards to the former U.S. official. Clark, who served as attorney general under the President Lyndon Johnson for three years in the 1960s, is a staunch war opponent who has met Saddam several times in the past 15 years.

The Washington Post and Associated Press contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2004 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

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New York Times printer-friendly version, as it appeared when I copied it this afternoon:

December 30, 2004
25 Insurgents Are Killed During Attack on U.S. Base in Mosul
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and KHALID AL-ANSARY

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 29 - American troops and warplanes killed at least 25 insurgents who used car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades in a brazen but failed effort to overrun an American combat outpost in Mosul this afternoon, the fiercest fighting the restive northern city has seen in weeks. Fifteen American soldiers were wounded, military officials said.

The two-hour battle in Mosul followed an ambush on Tuesday night in Baghdad in which insurgents tricked Iraqi police into raiding a booby-trapped home and then detonated a massive bomb that killed at least 7 police officers and 25 others, Iraqi officials said today. Most of the civilian victims were residents of three nearby homes flattened by the blast, the officials said.

The bomb exploded about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday just as the police charged the home in the Ghaziliyah district of western Baghdad, a rough Sunni Muslim neighborhood on the road to Abu Ghraib prison that has been the scene of clashes between gunmen and the police.

The explosion left electrical appliances, bedsheets and other household debris strewn about rubble in the street as American soldiers and Iraqi officials used heavy equipment to search for survivors. Two police officers and 23 others were also wounded, officials said.

The insurgents' attack in western Mosul was the latest coordinated strike at American or Iraqi forces, and it came eight days after a suicide bomber killed 18 Americans and 4 others in Mosul by infiltrating a mess tent at a military base.

The attack today began about 3:45 p.m., when insurgents armed with a car bomb tried to blow down the concrete barriers of the combat outpost, which is manned by a small force of soldiers. Insurgents then ambushed an armored military vehicle as it sped to the outpost.

The armored vehicle "found itself pretty much in the middle of a bunch of I.E.D.'s and V.B.I.E.D.'s," said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a military spokesman in Mosul, using military acronyms for improvised roadside bombs and car bombs. The armored vehicle, he said, fired its .50-caliber machine gun to explode or disable the bombs, and proceeded to the outpost.

There, the troops were attacked by a coordinated force of about 50 insurgents who fired rocket-propelled grenades and semi-automatic weapons. At that point, two F-18 and two F-14 military jets swooped down on strafing runs and firing Maverick missiles, wiping out much of the insurgent force. "That's when the close-air support came in and did a job on them," he said.

A key insurgent commander in Mosul was captured last week, Iraqi government officials said today. Abu Marwan, a 33-year-old commander in the Mosul terrorist group Abu Talha, which is affiliated with Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was seized on Dec. 23 based on tips from Iraqi citizens, they said.

The Iraqi government described Marwan as a "key al-Zarqawi operative" who was "responsible for conducting and commanding terror operations in Mosul, purchasing weapons for Talha's terrorist group, and coordinating the training of terrorist cells within the Abu Talha terrorist group."

The American military has also begun a significant new offensive to root out insurgents around Mahmoudiya and other towns in the "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, the assistant commander of the First Cavalry Division, told The Associated Press. No other details were available.

In the Baghdad blast on Tuesday night, the American military said its experts believed that some 1,750 pounds of explosives were used.

The force of the blast lifted one police car into the air and slammed it into a nearby home, said Marwan Yousif, a laborer, who lives in the neighborhood. "I saw many bodies scattered on the ground," Mr. Yousif said. Neighbors had grown suspicious of the occupants of the house, who had many late-night visitors, he added.

The attackers used two subterfuges to set the trap for the police, Iraqi officials said. A Sudanese who lived in the house began firing a semi-automatic weapon at people in the neighborhood, leading neighbors to call police to the scene, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said. "He was on the roof shooting at people randomly," the spokesman said.

Around the same time, two men flagged down a patrol of Iraqi police vehicles and told them that a suspicious man living in the house was suspected of terrorist activities, according to an Iraqi police major involved in the case.

"Our moving patrols received a report from two bearded men before the explosion happened, and they later found out it was a trap for our men as this place was loaded with a great amount of explosives," the major said. "Our patrols moved to the site and used loudspeakers to get them out, but the people inside did not respond and so our men raided the house. The moment they forced open the door, the house exploded."

The Interior Ministry spokesman said that just as police approached the home, "the terrorists exploded the house, which was loaded with a giant amount of explosives." The initial police investigation has found evidence that car bombs were being manufactured in the house, the Iraqi major said. He said the police regretted not detaining the two bearded men, who officials now believe were part of the trap. The police recovered remains of the Sudanese who lived at the house, he added.

Ghaziliyah is home to many former soldiers who served under Saddam Hussein and, according to a military assessment of insurgent strength, was a principal destination for insurgents who fled Falluja before the Marines' offensive there in November.

The booby-trapped house capped a bloody Tuesday across Iraq in which at least 23 other police and national guard officers were slain in multiple attacks, mainly across the Sunni-dominated zone north of Baghdad.

American commanders believe the attacks on Iraqi forces are a coordinated strategy to disrupt the January parliamentary elections by making Iraqis too afraid for their safety to vote, while eviscerating the police and guard units that the United States is relying on to eventually take over security in Iraq.

In another move apparently aimed at bolstering Iraqi security forces before the elections, the Minister of Defense, Hazem Shaalan, said today that Iraqi National Guard troops would be incorporated into the Iraqi Army on Jan. 6.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

THE SAUDS MUST BE DESTROYED!

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