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Officials Stand by Number of Attackers Killed in Samarra; Operations Continue

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2003 – U.S. Central Command officials are standing by the claim that 54 attackers were killed in the Nov. 30 ambush at a bank in Samarra, despite Iraqi civilians who say the number is much lower.

During a briefing from Baghdad today Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters today that he has "no reason to claim inaccurate figures." Kimmitt had reported the 54 killed in a Dec. 1 briefing.

"In fact we stand by those numbers," Kimmitt said. "Those numbers were provided by soldiers who were involved in the engagement, and we see no other evidence to suggest that those numbers are incorrect," he said, adding, "I trust the reports of my soldiers."

"There is no reason to doubt what the soldiers saw, there is no reason to doubt what the soldiers reported," he emphasized.

Dan Senor, senior spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority, added that coalition forces go through "great efforts" to provide unscrupulous reports after each mission operation. "They (soldiers) have been forthright and truthful, and will continue to be so."

Kimmitt told reporters insurgents who wanted to "steal" the money provoked the Samarra incident. He said an Iraqi currency exchange truck arrived at the town to deliver new dinar to two banks. He said the 4th Infantry Division soldiers' only purpose was to provide security. Currency exchange trucks had been attacked four times in the past, he noted.

"The Iraqi currency exchange trucks were able to perform their mission, which was to bring new dinars into the town and take old dinars out," he explained. "The people who attacked those trucks were attacking not only coalition soldiers, but were attacking Iraqis that were trying to provide money for a restored, restabilized, rebuilt Iraq."

Kimmitt said that once the exchange was done, the soldiers left the town. "They had accomplished their mission, they did not provoke an attack, they responded to an attack from terrorists and from anti-coalition elements and anti-Iraqi forces that wanted to steal the money."

Also during the briefing, Senor, said CPA is focused like a "laser beam" on implementation of the Nov. 15 agreement that sets a deadline vote on a new Iraqi constitution. He said CPA chief Ambassador L. Paul Bremer continues to meet with members of the Iraqi Governing Council to work on the deadline.

Senor said a sign of progress in meeting that goal is the council's establishment of two committees to look at direct elections to the constitutional convention. "Both of those," he pointed out, "were welcomed as a very positive sign by the ambassador that we are working closely with the governing council and they're taking their own steps to get the process moving."

He said Bremer paid a third visit Dec. 2 to the 37-member Baghdad Council, the political body that represents the nine districts within Baghdad.

Senor said during that visit, the ambassador discussed with council members issues pertaining to corruption in Iraq, the role of women in the political process, the security situation, the U.S. supplemental funding in the country for the coming years, and efforts to reduce Iraq foreign sovereign debt.

Kimmitt also told reporters that operations in the country remain "relatively stable." He said that military offensive and "intelligence-based" operations continue to enable a free Iraq. Those operations, he said, are designed to "kill or capture" anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi elements attempting to obstruct a safe and secure environment in Iraq. He told reporters that continued raids and cordons and searches have led to hundreds of enemy captures and weapons seizures.

In separate releases, CENTCOM reported that 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers captured Brig. Gen. Daham Al Mahemdi during an early morning cordon and search mission today. He is suspected of having indirect contact with Saddam Hussein and directing anti-coalition activities in Fallujah.

Soldiers found two AK-47 assault rifles, five AK-47 magazines, a 9 mm pistol, a 9 mm pistol magazine, a shotgun, one 100-round drum of ammunition, and assorted documents, including a photograph of Mahemdi in an Iraqi Army uniform, at his home.

Elements the division's 3rd Brigade also captured a suspected financier of anti-coalition activities, Abu Bilal Al Janabi. He is suspected of financing and aiding anti- coalition activities, including paying rewards for attacks against coalition forces.

Also soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, discovered a large weapons and ammunition cache north of Khalidiyah. The cache contained 650 plastic anti-tank mines, 400 anti-personnel mines, and 280 rocket-propelled grenade warheads, RPG fuel rods and propellant, as well as 10 anti-tank missiles, and various small arms and demolitions.

In another joint operation with Iraqi security forces, CENTCOM reported the 173rd Airborne Brigade, part of 4th Infantry Division's Task Force Ironhorse, captured 26 suspected Fedayeen Saddam members. During that operation, soldiers confiscated 62 AK-47s, 200 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, one rocket- propelled grenade launcher and two improvised-explosive-device-making kits.

Kimmitt also reported that in the past 24 hours coalition forces overall conducted 1,658 patrols and 22 raids, and captured 115 anti-coalition suspects. In the southeast, multinational division forces conducted another 240 patrols and two raids, and detained 25 personnel. Another 41 individuals were captured in the northeast zone, he said.

Four individuals with Iranian paperwork were detained after coalition forces found numerous arms and weapons in a mini- bus stopped in Basra, he said. "Among the weapons seized were several rocket-propelled grenade launchers and rifles," he noted.

In Baghdad, the 1st Armored Division detained 14 individuals suspected of ties to former regime leader Saddam Hussein's paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam. Three Iraqis were captured in a separate raid on targets suspected of attacks against the coalition. According to Kimmitt, they had $1.4 million dinar, three computers, Wahabi Islam sect booklets, Osama bin Laden literature, and weapons and ammunition in their possession.

Kimmitt reported that over the past seven days, U.S. forces have seen a trend that is "below recent norms" in the number of enemy attacks. He noted that coalition forces have encountered an average 19 engagements per day by the enemy, three less than 22 attacks per day reported a week ago. During the period, there were two attacks on Iraqi military and two attacks on Iraqi civilians, he said.

Kimmitt told reporters that the 101st Airborne Division has completed training another battalion of soldiers for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, bringing that unit's total to four battalions. Kimmitt said the battalion's soldiers will be responsible for securing Iraq oil pipelines and other infrastructure, and will be "fully integrated into combat operations and infrastructure security."

In addition, he said the coalition is helping Iraq to form an elite special force within the Iraqi Police. "What we're developing is a capability for the Iraqis to provide their own security," he said. "Most police forces throughout the world have special police forces inside their organizations. It is just an ordinary part of police activities."

In other developments in the country, Kimmitt said the Iraqi Student Union has declared itself against terrorist attacks in Iraq and is planning to start a campaign supporting social and political stabilization of the country.

Senor also reported that at the Republican Guard Palace Dec. 2, the first of the four heads in a monument of Saddam Hussein was torn down. The others will be taken down in coming days, which he called a very "important and symbolic" gesture.

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