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4 US Troops Taken In Karbala Attack January 20, Killed Later January 26, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News.
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BAGHDAD (AP)–Contrary to public statements by the U.S. military, four U.S. soldiers didn’t die repelling a sneak attack at the governor’s office in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last week. New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away.

The brazen assault, 50 miles south of Baghdad on Jan. 20, was conducted by nine to 12 militants posing as a U.S. security team. They traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles – the type used by U.S. government convoys – had U.S. weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues and spoke English.

In a written statement, the U.S. command reported at the time that five soldiers were killed while “repelling the attack.”

Now, two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials say four of the five were captured and taken from the governor’s compound alive. Three of them were found dead and one mortally wounded later that evening in locations as far as 25 miles east of the governor’s office.

The U.S. officials said they couldn’t be sure where the soldiers were shot after being captured at the compound. Iraqi officials said they believe the men were killed just before the Suburbans were abandoned.

The daring commando team also took an unclassified U.S. computer with them as they fled with the four soldiers and left behind a U.S. M-4 automatic rifle, senior U.S. military officials said.

The new information has emerged after nearly a week of inquiries. The U.S. military in Baghdad repeatedly declined comment on reports that began emerging from Iraqi government and military officials which suggested a major breakdown in security at the Karbala site.

The two senior U.S. military officials now confirm the reports, gathered by The Associated Press from five senior Iraqi government, military and religious leaders. The U.S. military also has provided additional details from internal military accounts.

None of the U.S. or Iraqi officials would allow the use of their names because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The Karbala raid, as explained by the Iraqi and U.S. officials, began after nightfall at about 6 p.m. local time on Jan. 20, while U.S. military officers were meeting their Iraqi counterparts on the main floor of the Provisional Joint Coordination Center, or PJCC, in Karbala.

The first U.S. military statement on the raid, which reported five soldiers killed and three wounded, said “the PJCC is a coordination center where local Iraqi officials, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces stationed within the center meet to address the security needs of the population.”

Iraqi officials said the approaching convoy of black GMC Suburbans was waved through an Iraqi checkpoint at the edge of Karbala. The Iraqi soldiers believed it to be a U.S. convoy because of the type of vehicles, the distinctive U.S. camouflage uniforms and the fact that they spoke English. One Iraqi official said the leader of the assault team was blond, but no other official confirmed that.

A top Iraqi security official for Karbala province told the AP that the Iraqi guards at the checkpoint radioed ahead to their compatriots at the PJCC to alert them that the convoy was on its way.

Iraqi officials said the attackers’ convoy divided upon arrival, with some vehicles parking at the back of the main building where the meeting was taking place, others parked in front.

The U.S. military in Baghdad received a first report of the attack about 6:15 p.m., the senior U.S. military officials said.

The attackers threw a grenade and opened fire with automatic rifles as they grabbed two soldiers inside the compound. Then the guerrilla assault team jumped on top of an armored U.S. Humvee and captured two more soldiers, the U.S. military officials said.

One U.S. soldier was killed in the melee at the compound, and three were wounded.

All the officials agreed the four abducted soldiers didn’t die in the fighting at the compound in Karbala, but it was unclear where they were killed.

The attackers fled with the four and the computer and headed east toward Mahwil, in neighboring Babil province, about 25 miles away, the U.S. military officials said.

The U.S. accounts didn’t say where the soldiers were killed. Iraqi officials said the four were captured alive and shot just before the vehicles were abandoned.

Iraqi officials said the U.S. military found the four U.S. soldiers in the Suburbans near Bu-Alwan, a village near Mahawil.

The U.S. officials, who had seen incident reports of the assault, said the documents indicated two of the soldiers were found in one of the Suburbans at one location and two others in a second Suburban elsewhere. The exact locations weren’t specified, they said.

Both sides agreed that – when found – three soldiers were dead and one was wounded and died as U.S. troops rushed the service member away for treatment.

Three days after the attack, the U.S. military in Baghdad announced the arrest of four suspects in the attack and said they had been detained on a tip from a Karbala resident. No further information was released about the suspects.

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