Boston Globe and Mirror of the World – 2004-10-03 21:53:02
US, Iraqis Storm Samarra
Thanassis Cambanis / Boston Globe
BAGHDAD (October 2nd, 2004) — American and Iraqi forces seized control of key sections of the northern city of Samarra yesterday, killing about 100 insurgents and capturing 37 in fierce street-to-street combat, an Iraqi minister and the US military said.
Fighting raged around the gold-domed shrine at the city center, a site sacred to Shi’ite Muslims. Iraqi National Guard soldiers captured 25 armed insurgents inside the mosque, the military said. By nightfall, US forces appeared in control of most of the city of 250,000, including City Hall.
The surprise offensive, launched early yesterday, appeared to kick off in earnest a promised joint US and Iraqi campaign to recapture major Iraqi cities before Iraqi elections planned for January. About 1,000 Iraqi National Guard soldiers assisted a battalion of about 3,500 soldiers from the US Army’s First Infantry Division in yesterday’s offensive. At least one American soldier was killed, and four others were wounded.
US forces invaded Samarra after weeks of touting the city as a success story, asserting that negotiations led by Iraq’s interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, had persuaded insurgents to turn over control to the government. It was unclear whether ongoing negotiations between fighters, Samarra’s leaders, and the Iraqi government had collapsed, or whether US forces and the Iraqi government had planned to reenter the Sunni Muslim stronghold anyway.
On Tuesday, insurgents bearing the flag of the terrorist group Tawhid and Jihad had marched through the city, mocking claims that the rebels had given up control. The Al Qaeda-linked group, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has attacked US-led forces throughout the country and claimed responsibility for beheading several Western hostages.
Qasim Daoud, Iraq’s national security adviser, said the government had last met with tribal, religious, and political leaders in the city on Sept. 26. Daoud, who would not say whether negotiations broke down after that meeting, stressed that the city’s residents had requested help.
“The people of Samarra have asked us to help them, to free them from the burglars and criminals who have violated this holy city,” he said. “We have responded to their suffering, to purify the holy city of Samarra from the terrorists.”
Even without local support, he said, US and Iraqi forces would have invaded the city. “It is our duty to cleanse this city,” he said.
Mahmoud Khaled al-Sorchi, a leader of a Kurdish tribe in northern Iraq familiar with the negotiations in Samarra, accused the Iraqi government of intentionally escalating tensions as an excuse to authorize a US-led invasion of the city.
“The people of Samarra didn’t object that the Iraqi National Guard would go into Samarra and preserve it,” Sorchi said. “We were optimistic. We hope that democratic dialogue will be the base to solve all problems.”
While Fallujah and Ramadi are the more well-known flashpoints in the Sunni Triangle north and west of Baghdad, Samarra has been a persistent thorn in the side of the US military. Last fall, ambushes and roadside bombs in the area made the city impassable to soldiers patrolling there.
The Army’s Fourth Infantry Division launched a major operation in December to flush the city of Sunni insurgents, who drew on a strong base of support from the tribal network in control there. By this summer, however, Samarra had slipped back into insurgent control and has been considered an effective “no-go zone” for US troops, Iraqi soldiers, and local police for several months.
As recently as Sept. 9, Iraqi officials said that Samarra’s leadership had agreed to let Iraqi police patrol the city, and had convinced insurgents with local ties to stand down. But this week, American soldiers and Iraqi security forces came under attack.
The assault began just after midnight as troops entered Samarra to secure government and police buildings. Insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns clashed with heavily armed USground troops and helicopter gunships.
At 11 a.m., Iraqi soldiers entered the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi and Imam Hassan al-Askari, where the US military said they captured 25 armed insurgents. The shrine is a destination of Shi’ite pilgrims, though it is located in a city that is almost entirely Sunni.
US officials have said they want to have Iraqi security forces conduct sensitive urban operations, like the search of holy sites. Iraqi troops were on standby in Najaf in August to storm the shrine of Imam Ali, an action avoided when a Shi’ite militia agreed to a last-minute cease-fire after three weeks of fighting.
Fighting continued last night in Samarra, but Daoud said that Iraqi and US forces controlled the mosque, the City Hall, and a pharmaceutical factory.
“It’s a clearing operation for the terrorists in Samarra,” he said. “Now all the important locations of Samarra are under the control of Iraqi forces.”
American and Iraqi forces ringed the city and closed all roads, cutting off electricity and water in advance of the attack. They also imposed a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew. They clashed with insurgents in speedboats on the Tigris River.
Tanks and warplanes pounded the city with mortar fire during the fighting.
“We are terrified by the violent approach used by the Americans to subdue the city,” Mahmoud Saleh, a 33-year-old civil servant, told the Associated Press. “My wife and children are scared to death.”
The AP quoted an official at Samarra General Hospital, Dr. Khalid Ahmed, as saying the hospital had received at least 80 dead and 100 wounded.
Elsewhere, US warplanes and tanks attacked militants in Sadr City, the vast Shi’ite slum in eastern Baghdad. A hospital director said 12 Iraqis were killed and 11 wounded.
Thanassis Cambanis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7 US Helicopters Downed, 147 Troops Killed in Samarra
Mirror of the World
RUSSIA (October 2, 2004) — In a very bad turn of events for US invaders, the occupation along with Iraqi occupation police and army attempted to take the city of Samara simultaneously from three axis (North, South, and West).
What was unknown to the occupiers was that the resistance had countered with a well-devised trap where the US invaders were themselves surrounded from three areas which was the towns of “Balad, Dhaluia, Thirthar.” The resistance used heavy weapons to attack the US invaders in the form of “Al-Tariq” (range 33 km), “Karad” (range 24 km), “Katushia” (range 11.3 km and 8.3km), “Mortor 120ml” (range 9.2 km and 7.2 km).
To counter the attack, the US forces called in its attack helicopters which were easy prey for the resistance as the area the helicopters need to fly over is heavy in trees and palm groves giving cover to the resistance. A total of 7 helicopters were shot down beginning with a Black Hawk, then a Cobra, then another Cobra, then a Chinook which was being used to land troops west of Samara, then two Apache helicopters which were downed to the north of Samara. The weaopns used to take down the helicopters were the “Strella, C5K, Dimotrov 14.5 ml”.
The resistance also managed to destroy 4 Abram tanks, 7 Hummer’s, two transports and kill over 82 Iraqi occupation soldiers and 65 US soldiers.
After this attack, the US called in its F14 and F16 attack planes, which bombed the city for a straight 8 hours using cluster bombs, napalm, and laser-guided weapons. Fearing for the life of the city’s inhabitants, the resistance withdrew from sections of Samara and moved to the surrounding villages and towns where it attempted to draw the US forces towards it and away from the city.
This tactic was successful at stopping the attacks. The current situation in Samara has the resistance in control of 70% of the city with the Us and Iraq occupation army holding the remaining 30%.
The number of civilians killed in the attacks is yet unknown due to many homes falling on their inhabitants. What has been confirmed is 115 dead and 154 injured. The dead from the resistance has reached between 23-25, not counting the wounded.
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