Coalition Captures Terrorist, Brooks Describes Mosul Incident
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 16, 2003 Coalition special operations personnel in Baghdad captured Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas April 14, U.S. Central Command officials said today.
Abu Abbas, also known as Mohammad Abbas, planned the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In the course of that hijacking a wheelchair-bound American citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered.
Abbas lived in a southern Baghdad. "Abbas was described as the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Front," said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks during a briefing at Qatar. "Abu Abbas is a terrorist. He was a terrorist and he remains a terrorist, and he will be viewed as such."
Brooks, the vice chief of operations at the command, said Abu Abbas' role in terrorism and his links to other terrorist organizations are clear. "Perhaps what's more important: He was found in Baghdad," he said. "We've said for a long time that Baghdad and Iraq, and the regime that no longer exists, have harbored terrorists, have provided a safe haven for terrorists and in some cases have facilitated the operations of terrorists."
Brooks said coalition forces continue with efforts to find terrorist links and organizations in Iraq.
Brooks discussed an incident in the northern city of Mosul April 15 that continues under investigation. "A preliminary report tells us that a coalition special operations force with civil affairs and reinforced by Marines went into an area they had selected to be used as a regional coordinating center," he said. It was a former government building with a retaining wall around it, he noted.
After the first group entered the building, more Marines joined them, Brooks said. The second Marine group had to move through a large crowd of Iraqis who threw rocks at them, and hit and spit on them, the general said.
The Marines took up positions to secure the area. "At a later time, the crowd became even more incensed and agitated," he said. The crowd turned over civilian vehicles and set fire to them and "the actions became increasingly violent."
The coalition forces observed men with weapons in the crowd firing into the air. "Warning shots were fired by coalition forces into a field beyond where the crowd was forming," Brooks said.
"Thereafter, fire was directed at Marines and special operations forces at this complex. It was aimed fire, and aimed fire was then returned against some of the demonstrators, some of the agitated persons who were now climbing over the wall of the compound.
"Fire was indeed delivered by coalition forces, it was lethal fire, and some Iraqis were killed because of that," Brooks continued. He put the number killed at about seven.
He said the compound was under attack from two sides and coalition forces again observed men with weapons in the crowd.