Seven Marines Killed in Separate Anbar Province Incidents
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2004 Seven Marines assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed in action Dec. 12 in two separate incidents while conducting security and stabilization operations in Iraq's Anbar province, military officials in Baghdad reported today.
Citing security considerations, officials did not provide further details.
One 1st Corps Support Command soldier died from a vehicle accident at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad today. Two other soldiers were injured and were medically evacuated to a coalition military medical facility. The name of the dead soldier is being withheld pending next of kin notification.
Also today, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated, wounding three Task Force Baghdad soldiers and one Iraqi civilian in northern Baghdad. Two military Humvees were severely damaged in the attack.
Iraqi police and National Guardsmen beat back an insurgent attack on a police station just south of Baghdad on Dec. 12. A written statement from Multinational Force Iraq officials said the incident increased optimism "that the fledgling Iraqi security forces are growing more confident and capable, even in the face of a concerted campaign of intimidation and terror."
The early-morning assault on the Rasheed station north of Mahmudiyah by an estimated 10 militants using mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms posed the biggest test yet for the 507th ING Battalion, which has been operating alongside the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit since July.
The policemen and soldiers immediately returned fire, holding their ground and summoning their quick-reaction force. Marines were called to assist, but were not needed, as the ING decisively repulsed the attack, officials said.
Several attackers fled to a nearby mosque, where ING soldiers found them and a variety of weapons and ammunition. In a full sweep of the area, the ING detained 34 suspected insurgents. The soldiers also discovered a car bomb across the street from the police station. Marine explosives experts were called in to defuse and dispose of the bomb. One ING soldier was wounded in the firefight.
In the written statement, Multinational Force officials said the successful defense of the Rasheed station -- the third in recent weeks -- represents "an important psychological victory for the local Iraqi security forces, who were not yet strong enough earlier this year to prevent the destruction by insurgents of police stations in other south-central cities and towns."
"This engagement is just the latest in which the Iraqi security forces have proven themselves in combat," said Marine Col. Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th MEU. "It demonstrates that a properly trained and equipped Iraqi unit can stand, fight and win."
While attacks have continued, the arrival of the Marines marked a turning point. The Marines and their Iraqi allies spread out across northern Babil province and southern Baghdad, establishing joint patrol bases and sending what the Multinational Force statement called "a message of unflinching resolve."
"With sustained presence and reinforcing firepower provided by the Marines, the ISF have begun to thrive," the military command's statement said. "Though kidnappings and murders -- including the gruesome slaying of 12 ING candidates in a mosque west of Lutafiyah in November -- have led to some attrition, recruitment is on the rise. Not only are the ranks of the Iraqi police and ING swelling, their performance is improving."
The statement also said ING soldiers increasingly are taking the lead in joint U.S.-Iraqi raids, which, coupled with random vehicle checkpoints, have resulted in the capture and imprisonment of 537 insurgents in the area since August.
In other action near Mahmudiyah, Marines attached to the 24th MEU rounded up 21 suspected insurgents and seized an assortment of weapons and munitions in a series of raids early today. Elsewhere in northern Babil province, Marines detained 17 suspects in multiple operations on Dec. 12.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)