[A-List] Iraq: the quagmire deepens
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Sep 28 00:36:57 MDT 2004
Huge rise in attacks on British patrols in Iraq
IAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent
The Herald, September 28 2004
ATTACKS on British patrols and bases increased from seven in July to more
than 850 last month as Iraq slides deeper into violence.
Latest figures show British soldiers also fired more than 100,000 rifle and
machine-gun rounds during skirmishes in which it is believed more than 100
The 8000-strong garrison in the south of the country, including a battalion
from the Black Watch, experienced more hostile contacts in four weeks than
any British units since the 1951-53 Korean War when the al Mahdi army
militia of rebel cleric Moqtada al Sadr launched an all-out offensive.
Yesterday, the violence continued with two separate car bombs. The first car
bomb struck a seven-vehicle Iraqi National Guard patrol in the north-eastern
city of Mosul, killing at least four guardsmen and wounding three others.
A suicide attacker later detonated another explosives-packed vehicle at a
National Guard checkpoint near the insurgent stronghold of Falluja, killing
at least three guardsmen and wounding several other people.
The attacks brought the total number of car bombings in Iraq this month to
at least 36.
US jets pounded suspected militant positions in the Baghdad slum of Sadr
City before dawn yesterday, killing at least five people and wounding 46 -
including 15 women and nine children, authorities said.
Residents said explosions lit up the night sky for hours, leaving a trail of
mangled vehicles, damaged buildings and shards of glass. At least two
children wrapped in blood-stained bandages could be seen lying in hospital
beds and one man suffered burns from head-to-toe.
Lieutenant Colonel Jim Hutton, a US Army spokesman, said insurgents also
fired three mortar rounds at a nearby US Army base, but that the shells fell
short and exploded in a civilian neighbourhood.
It was not immediately known if there were any casualties.
The military has launched a sweeping crackdown recently against Shi'ite
fighters loyal to al Sadr in the sprawling slum - named after the cleric's
late father - in an effort to dismantle his militia before general elections
The sharp increase in insurgent violence can be seen with the most
up-to-date figures from the British-controlled south of Iraq.
There were only seven attacks on the British soldiers in July, but last
month that figure had increase to 853. During the same period the base at al
Ammara, north of Basra, was hit by more than 400 mortar rounds and rockets
in night time bombardments.
Three British soldiers, including one from the Black Watch, were killed. The
Ministry of Defence refuses to say how many were wounded, but admitted that
orders had gone out for "lock-downs" - a ban on unnecessary movement by road
except in well-protected Warrior armoured vehicles.
Most of the British force spent the month "forted up" behind razor wire and
sandbagged emplacements as the lock-down order forbade vulnerable
foot-patrols on city streets.
It emerged last week that quick-reaction teams continued to respond to
hostile action, mounting counter-attacks in Warrior fighting vehicles
supported by Challenger tanks. More than 100 rebel militiamen are estimated
to have been killed and an unknown number injured in firefights which
sometimes lasted for up to two hours.
One Scottish soldier said yesterday: "I was here during the invasion last
year. The fighting last month was far more intense.
"We ended up fighting classic 'corporal's war' battles, with seven-man
infantry sections using fire-and-manoeuvre tactics against snipers and
groups of militia using rocket-propelled grenades.
"We took out about between 25% and 50% of the al Mahdi militiamen who were
giving us grief, including killed and wounded. Our superior training and
discipline paid off."
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