New York Times (September 13)
More Post-Combat U.S. Gunfire in Iraq
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
BAGHDAD – American military units fired on insurgents while supporting Iraqi troops northeast of the capital on Sunday, Iraqi officials said. It was the second such episode since the United States declared an end to its combat operations in Iraq less than two weeks ago.
There were no American casualties in the fighting in Hudaidy, a village about 50 miles from Baghdad that has long harbored members of the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
Iraqi security officials said three people were killed: an Iraqi soldier, an Iraqi police officer and an insurgent. Ten people were wounded.
The United States military did not confirm its role in the fighting. An American military spokeswoman said Sunday in an e-mail that she was awaiting “releasable information.”
But Iraqi military and civilian officials said American helicopters and some ground troops had taken part after Iraqi forces requested assistance. The Iraqis had come under fire while raiding Sunni insurgent hide-outs in the agricultural area.
Since Sept. 1, the primary mission of American troops in Iraq – which number slightly less than 50,000 – has changed from conducting combat operations to training and advising Iraqi security forces in preparation for the planned American military withdrawal at the end of 2011. The ability of Iraqi forces to fight insurgents and to protect the country’s borders without American help has been an underlying concern.
On Sunday, Maj. Dhalib Attiya of the Diyala Police said insurgents had placed bombs at the perimeter of a 12-acre palm grove in Hudaidy to prevent Iraqi forces from approaching.
Some of the fighters then climbed into tall palms and fired at Iraqi Army and police units with sniper rifles, he said.
Isam Shakar Mizher, a member of the security committee of the Diyala Provincial Council, said Iraqi forces sought help from American helicopters after being unable to locate the snipers.
“This support was necessary to deal with some of these targets,” Mr. Mizher said.
After arriving American helicopters fired rockets at the snipers, United States soldiers on the ground helped Iraqi troops defuse at least two bombs planted by insurgents, Iraqi officials said.
The battle started Saturday afternoon after Iraqi security forces arrested at least eight men suspected of having ties to the insurgency, the Iraqi police said.
Not long afterward, Iraqi soldiers and police officers were attacked near the orchard, and a police officer was killed by a bomb. Major Attiya said the Americans did not join the fight until Sunday morning, after the Iraqi military had formally requested assistance.
On Sunday evening, Iraqi security officials said the palm grove had been surrounded by Iraqi troops who planned to enter the field at dawn. It was not immediately clear whether American troops would accompany them.
One week ago, on Sept. 5, insurgents attacked the headquarters of an Iraqi Army division in Baghdad. At least 12 people, including six insurgents, were killed and 36 were wounded.
An American military spokesman said American soldiers had provided “suppressive fire” for Iraqi troops in a counterassault.
Yasir Ghazi and Zaid Thaker contributed reporting from Baghdad, and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Diyala Province.