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Hellfire and Brimstone: Killing al Qaeda in Samarra

The last 24 hours in Samarra – the site of the famed Attack on the Golden Dome of last year, and home to the pre-medieval Spiral Minaret – have been both interesting and action-packed. This city, north of Baghdad along the east side of the Tigris River, is still very much in the “clear” phase of the three-step “clear-hold-build” counterinsurgency progression advocated by MNF-I Commanding General David Petraeus. Al Qaeda is the number one (and basically the only) enemy here, and they are still a very large and forceful presence within the city. Most appear to come in from the north – the one main road in, and one which has a great deal of civilian traffic – to execute their attacks, and then leave again.

“We’ve been told that ‘no al Qaeda sleep in the city,’” Captain Buddy Ferris, commander of the 82nd Airborne’s Charlie Company 2-505 (the battalion is also known as “2-Panther”), told me. His Company is the lone conventional unit responsible for the city of Samarra and the entirety of the sparsely populated (and therefore perfect for hiding people and weapons) surrounding countryside. “They know that we’ll hunt them down and kill them.”

The missions here thus far have entailed joint (Iraqi Police and US Army) patrols, searches, reconnaissance for future raids, pursuit of high-value targets, and meetings with police, potential resistance leaders, and potential contractors to whom reconstruction projects can be allotted, should the city ever become more secure.

Yesterday’s action began at 1000 local time. Charlie Co.’s 4th Platoon (or ‘Green’ Platoon) rolled out from Patrol Base Olson, the Company’s headquarters located on the extreme northwest edge of the city (directly on the Tigris in pursuit of an al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) sheik who had been spotted by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that morning. After thirty minutes of running from house to house while conflicting directions were passed from UAV to the ground commander – via several different go-betweens – like a bad game of telephone, Green Platoon began to be harassed by several men in a pair of sedans who were firing AK-47s at the soldiers who were dismounted from their Humvees.

As that action picked up, the Quick Reaction Force (‘QRF’) – C Co.’s 1st Platoon (or ‘Red’ Platoon) was ordered to mobilize and get out into the city to hunt down one of the two cars harassing Green Plt, while also providing a moving ‘screen’ for them from hostile fire. I mounted up with the QRF, and within two minutes of receiving the order we were through the gate, through the National Police Battle Position just outside our patrol base, and out in sector.

The sedans proved difficult to locate on the ground, and after about an hour of high-speed driving on both main and side roads, word came across the radio that the particular car that we were pursuing had made it to the road north of the city and was on its way out into the hinterland where so many of the terrorists who operate in Samarra hide.

As our Humvee column had no chance of catching the sedan filled with terrorists before they escaped into the mountains to the northeast of the city, Apache helicopters were called in to destroy the vehicle, which they did with a Hellfire missile.

THE SEDAN WAS still burning when we arrived. All four men in the car were dead; two had made it clear of the vehicle, and two were still inside (long since dead). The fire was dampened by a soldier with a fire extinguisher, and the situation was assessed. Four AK-47s, an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), and a PKC machine gun were found in and around the destroyed car, making the shoot a ‘good’ one already. Further, as Red Plt’s soldiers moved to put the two salvageable bodies into body bags to remove them from the scene, one soldier – seeing only the smallest corner of what looked like a cell phone covered in bubble wrap – recognized the fact that one of the bodies was outfitted with a suicide vest. The men quickly moved away from the bodies and called in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) who, after a mishap involving a Humvee whose right front wheel fell off, arrived and blew up the car and the suicide vest, along with an unexploded RPG round that had flown out of the vehicle when the missile had struck it. The one recoverable body which was not rigged by its former owner to explode was put into a body bag by the soldiers and brought back for identification and burial by any family members who would show up to claim it. It was all done very humanely.

Farther south within the city, Green Plt had called in an Apache on the remaining sedan, as well, and it was destroyed, though the people inside escaped before it was hit. Another was struck, as well, and a person inside who had been firing at the Americans was killed.

The total count for the morning was five terrorists killed, three cars destroyed, six AK-47s, one RPG, one PKC, and one suicide vest found and destroyed, and no civilians or Americans killed or wounded.

It was a fairly successful day in Samarra for Charlie Company.

Check back for Part II. Click here for all of Jeff's dispatches, updates, and articles from the front lines in Iraq.

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At 11:41 PM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

Yea, sounds great. Too bad our vehicles are weighed down with so much armor they can't run with the terrorist's rides.

No telling what intel you guys would have gotten if you could have taken most of them alive.

But, like you said all in all an excellent adventure.

At least you ain't walking, I can tell you that is the last way you want to travel.

Continue the Mission

Papa Ray
West Texas

At 12:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Papa Ray you are an ass. Most that have people in country believe that they do not have sufficient armor.

My opinion is that the Humvee is too light no matter the amount of armor.

Are you saying that they should all have a turbo powered Abrams? Without the regulator, they would be able to keep up with a car. Oh hell, just shoot the gun and get it over with.


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