3 Killed in Iraq; Coalition Continues Offensive Operations
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 10, 2004 Two Defense Department civilians and an Iraqi translator were killed in a March 9 attack in Hillah, Iraq, coalition officials said today.
Senior Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor told reporters at a Baghdad news briefing that the FBI is leading an investigation of the incident. He said some details in wire reports of the attack are incorrect, but he declined to specify which ones.
"The facts are still coming out," he said, "and we're going to wait on the investigation." He added the coalition will release the names of the dead when their families have been notified, and would release more information about the attack when the investigation establishes the facts.
Senor had no update on the March 8 death of Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas, also known as Mohammed Abbas. Initial reports, according to a coalition release, had indicated he died of natural causes. Medical personnel efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
"We have brought a naval officer in to conduct the autopsy, and as soon as the results of the autopsy are known, that will be publicized. We certainly expect to confirm that Mr. Abbas died of natural causes," Senor said today.
U.S. forces had held Abbas since he had been captured in Baghdad on April 14, 2003, noted the coalition release. Saddam Hussein had provided safe haven for Abbas and the terrorist Palestinian Liberation Organization for many years.
Abbas planned the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise liner, the Achille Lauro, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. During that hijacking, a wheelchair- bound American citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, provided details of recent military operations in Iraq:
In the 24 hours leading up to today's 10 a.m. EST briefing, the coalition conducted 1,482 patrols, 31 offensive operations and 11 raids. They captured 78 anti-coalition suspects and released three detainees. The past week has seen an average of 18 engagements daily against coalition military forces, just under four per day against Iraqi security forces, and just under three per day against Iraqi civilians.
In the north, coalition forces conducted five offensive operations in northeastern Mosul to disrupt a terrorist cell with possible connections to the radical Iraqi group Ansar al-Sunna. Three of the five primary targets were detained, as well nine other suspects.
Three Iraqi civilians were killed and one was wounded March 8 when they were stopped in northern Mosul at a traffic control point. They resisted questioning and opened fire on an Iraqi police officer. One Iraqi in the car tried to throw a grenade at the checkpoint, but it exploded in the car, killing two occupants and wounding two more. The injured men were taken to the hospital under guard, and one died March 9.
Subsequent research on the four men revealed they were directly involved in the assassination of a Mosul city council member in November.
An Iraqi police station in central Mosul was attacked March 9 with small-arms fire and grenades. Three Iraqi police and four other officials were wounded. All of the wounded were treated and released from local hospitals.
Police on duty March 8 at an Iraqi police station in Biaj returned fire on a drive-by shooter and wounded the attacker. He was taken into custody and placed in a local hospital.
Coalition forces in the north-central zone conducted a cordon-and-search operation March 9 to apprehend suspects in bomb and mortar attacks against coalition forces south of Balad. Soldiers captured seven of the nine targeted suspects and also took three other people into custody.
Walid al-Ayish, believed to be the highest-ranking Baath Party member in the Tormea area, turned himself in to coalition forces March 9. Kimmitt said officials believe he may have surrendered to negotiate the release of his brother, who was captured in an earlier raid.
Two Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers suspected of conducting anti-coalition activities were captured in a raid near Tikrit March 8. Two other suspects were captured along with the soldiers targeted by the raid.
Ahmed Hassan Kaka al-Obaidi, suspected of being a former Baath Party member and coordinator for anti-coalition forces in the Tamin province, was captured without incident after being targeted by a March 8 raid near Erbil.
In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 569 patrols and 39 escort missions, and captured 11 anti-coalition suspects.
ICDC soldiers reported March 8 that the imam of the al-Qubasi Mosque, Ali Hassan Hussein Al-Dhabi, had been murdered. Coalition forces sent a patrol to investigate, and confirmed he was shot March 7 by four unknown assailants driving a brown BMW.
In the west, coalition forces received information from the border police that two men wearing black masks and driving a white four-door Nissan pickup truck had kidnapped a border policeman in Husbayah. The source helped identify the truck. An OH-58 helicopter confirmed its presence at a target location. Soldiers and Marines conducted a cordon-and-search operation and captured 10 enemy personnel.
In the central-south zone, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 120 patrols, established 47 checkpoints and escorted 46 convoys.
In the southeast, Iraqi police officers were engaged with small-arms fire from a mob of about 50 people March 9 in Nasiriyah. Coalition forces responded to the scene and became involved in the firefight. The Iraqi police withdrew to a nongovernmental organization's compound, and a quick-reaction force and an unmanned observer vehicle were launched to assess the situation.
The incident resulted in four Iraqi police killed, two Iraqi police wounded and no civilian casualties, and nine Iraqis were arrested. One coalition soldier was wounded and was taken to a medical facility.