Battle Blog 6 - 12 September 2004

Apparently, reports last week that Saddam's number two man, Izzat Ibrahim Al—Douri, was captured were incorrect.  US forces stated that they did not have him in custody, and Iraqi security forces said they were awaiting testing on confirmation of the detainee's identity.  Al—Douri was deputy chairman of the Ba'athist Revolutionary Command Council, and played a key role in the chemical attacks against a Kurdish village near the city of Halabjah in 1988, which killed 5000 civilians.

Major wire services report that Baghdad came under intense mortar barrages Sunday, and that the US compound known as the Green Zone was also hit.  Terrorist groups connected with al—Qaeda and led by Jordanian terror chief Abu Musab al—Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks.  In Baghdad, a roadside bomb also disabled a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, but the crew escaped with minor wounds.  Later, a Kiowa Warrior helicopter fired on the Bradley to prevent looters from taking ammunition and small arms from the vehicle.  It was reported that several civilians were killed during the chopper strike, but it was impossible to tell who among the dead were terrorists or civilians.

Sadr City in Baghdad remains quiet after a cease—fire agreement was reached last week between Coalition and Iraqi forces and the Sadr City Chapter of the so—called Mahdi militia.  Events appeared to be similar to what happened in Najaf the week prior.  The 1st Cavalry Division had been conducting successful attacks against Sadr's thugs, forcing them into a confined space in Sadr City, when the request for a truce was issued by Muqtada al—Sadr.  There have been no press releases from either CENTCOM or Multi—National Forces — Iraq (MNF—I) on details of the peace deal.

Finally, Alissa Rubin of The Los Angeles Times quotes  Marine Col. Jerry L. Durrant who pronounced the end of the grand experiment of the Fallujah Brigade, an Iraqi force formed to pacify the city.  "The Fallujah Brigade is done, over.  The whole Fallujah Brigade thing was a fiasco.  Initially it worked out OK, but it wasn't a good idea for very long."  Given the increase in air strikes against Fallujah this past week, operations against the end of the Syrian rat line in the city might be around the corner.

A CENTCOM press release notes that Marine forces appear to be preparing for operations against Fallujah by destroying engineering equipment used by anti—Iraqi forces to construct fighting positions around the city.  The report also sets the stage in the political arena by stating that the continued fortification of the town contradicts the authority of the Iraqi government:

Insurgents within the city have begun to militarize buildings and restrict daily activity in the city, denying the citizens of Fallujah the opportunity to live in a state of normalcy.  These actions by the AIF undermine and discredit the authority of Iraqi civic leaders and terrorize the people of Fallujah.

In addition to the hundreds of mutilated bodies found  in Najaf by Iraqi security forces and US intelligence, Iraqi police have now found a large weapons cache behind a false wall in what used to be Sadr's offices in the Old Quarter of the city.  When the police broke through the wall, they found a network of secret hallways and rooms that contained mortars, machine guns, and other weapons ostensibly to be recovered and used if the terrorists ever managed to return to the city center.  It looks like Sadr will now have to scrap that plan.  The CENTCOM report covered the results of this significant find by the police and the special urban police unit known as the Iraqi Intervention Force:

Included in the secret cache the Iraqi Police, IIF and Iraqi National Guard found more than 10 mortar tubes (including heavy mortars), more than 145 mortar rounds, a dozen rockets, numerous anti—tank weapons including RPG launchers, a heavy machine gun, an anti—aircraft gun, automatic rifles, mines, various other explosives and communications equipment.

A good summary of operations in Northern Iraq can be found in the CENTCOM press release Multi—National Forces, Iraqi National Guard continue operations in Tal Afar.  While attention has been focused on terrorist hotspots like Najaf and Fallujah, Tal Afar has apparently had an increase of terrorist activity that has forced hundreds of people from their homes.  We also learn that the International Red Crescent has set up operations nearby, to provide aid to the displaced Iraqis.

Medical supplies, food and aid also continue to come into Tal Afar, according to Dr. Rabee Yassin, general manager for health in Nineveh province.  'Ambulances again will be sent into Tal Afar today, and trucks with food and medicine will be delivered to the hospital to help the citizens of Tal Afar,' Yassin said.

Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks's article entitled, 22nd MEU Afghanistan Recap: MEU drives stake into Taliban heartland provides an excellent overview of the major campaign that tore the guts out of the enemy in Oruzgan province of Afghanistan this past spring and summer. Oruzgan province was the major source for fighters against the Soviet invasion during the 80s.  The 22d MEU (SOC), along with elements of the Afghan Army, and the US Army's 2nd Bn., 5th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division took the fight to the enemy in his home territory.  The Combined Task Force conducted more than 12 major combat offensives and civil—military operations through the month of July.  The greatest compliment came from one of the captured Taliban fighters:

"These Americans are not like the ones before," he told interrogators after his capture during Operation ASBURY PARK in early June.  "They stay and fight.  Wherever they go they create death; they are death walkers."

Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent

Apparently, reports last week that Saddam's number two man, Izzat Ibrahim Al—Douri, was captured were incorrect.  US forces stated that they did not have him in custody, and Iraqi security forces said they were awaiting testing on confirmation of the detainee's identity.  Al—Douri was deputy chairman of the Ba'athist Revolutionary Command Council, and played a key role in the chemical attacks against a Kurdish village near the city of Halabjah in 1988, which killed 5000 civilians.

Major wire services report that Baghdad came under intense mortar barrages Sunday, and that the US compound known as the Green Zone was also hit.  Terrorist groups connected with al—Qaeda and led by Jordanian terror chief Abu Musab al—Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks.  In Baghdad, a roadside bomb also disabled a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, but the crew escaped with minor wounds.  Later, a Kiowa Warrior helicopter fired on the Bradley to prevent looters from taking ammunition and small arms from the vehicle.  It was reported that several civilians were killed during the chopper strike, but it was impossible to tell who among the dead were terrorists or civilians.

Sadr City in Baghdad remains quiet after a cease—fire agreement was reached last week between Coalition and Iraqi forces and the Sadr City Chapter of the so—called Mahdi militia.  Events appeared to be similar to what happened in Najaf the week prior.  The 1st Cavalry Division had been conducting successful attacks against Sadr's thugs, forcing them into a confined space in Sadr City, when the request for a truce was issued by Muqtada al—Sadr.  There have been no press releases from either CENTCOM or Multi—National Forces — Iraq (MNF—I) on details of the peace deal.

Finally, Alissa Rubin of The Los Angeles Times quotes  Marine Col. Jerry L. Durrant who pronounced the end of the grand experiment of the Fallujah Brigade, an Iraqi force formed to pacify the city.  "The Fallujah Brigade is done, over.  The whole Fallujah Brigade thing was a fiasco.  Initially it worked out OK, but it wasn't a good idea for very long."  Given the increase in air strikes against Fallujah this past week, operations against the end of the Syrian rat line in the city might be around the corner.

A CENTCOM press release notes that Marine forces appear to be preparing for operations against Fallujah by destroying engineering equipment used by anti—Iraqi forces to construct fighting positions around the city.  The report also sets the stage in the political arena by stating that the continued fortification of the town contradicts the authority of the Iraqi government:

Insurgents within the city have begun to militarize buildings and restrict daily activity in the city, denying the citizens of Fallujah the opportunity to live in a state of normalcy.  These actions by the AIF undermine and discredit the authority of Iraqi civic leaders and terrorize the people of Fallujah.

In addition to the hundreds of mutilated bodies found  in Najaf by Iraqi security forces and US intelligence, Iraqi police have now found a large weapons cache behind a false wall in what used to be Sadr's offices in the Old Quarter of the city.  When the police broke through the wall, they found a network of secret hallways and rooms that contained mortars, machine guns, and other weapons ostensibly to be recovered and used if the terrorists ever managed to return to the city center.  It looks like Sadr will now have to scrap that plan.  The CENTCOM report covered the results of this significant find by the police and the special urban police unit known as the Iraqi Intervention Force:

Included in the secret cache the Iraqi Police, IIF and Iraqi National Guard found more than 10 mortar tubes (including heavy mortars), more than 145 mortar rounds, a dozen rockets, numerous anti—tank weapons including RPG launchers, a heavy machine gun, an anti—aircraft gun, automatic rifles, mines, various other explosives and communications equipment.

A good summary of operations in Northern Iraq can be found in the CENTCOM press release Multi—National Forces, Iraqi National Guard continue operations in Tal Afar.  While attention has been focused on terrorist hotspots like Najaf and Fallujah, Tal Afar has apparently had an increase of terrorist activity that has forced hundreds of people from their homes.  We also learn that the International Red Crescent has set up operations nearby, to provide aid to the displaced Iraqis.

Medical supplies, food and aid also continue to come into Tal Afar, according to Dr. Rabee Yassin, general manager for health in Nineveh province.  'Ambulances again will be sent into Tal Afar today, and trucks with food and medicine will be delivered to the hospital to help the citizens of Tal Afar,' Yassin said.

Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks's article entitled, 22nd MEU Afghanistan Recap: MEU drives stake into Taliban heartland provides an excellent overview of the major campaign that tore the guts out of the enemy in Oruzgan province of Afghanistan this past spring and summer. Oruzgan province was the major source for fighters against the Soviet invasion during the 80s.  The 22d MEU (SOC), along with elements of the Afghan Army, and the US Army's 2nd Bn., 5th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division took the fight to the enemy in his home territory.  The Combined Task Force conducted more than 12 major combat offensives and civil—military operations through the month of July.  The greatest compliment came from one of the captured Taliban fighters:

"These Americans are not like the ones before," he told interrogators after his capture during Operation ASBURY PARK in early June.  "They stay and fight.  Wherever they go they create death; they are death walkers."

Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent