Seven Die in Three Incidents in Iraq

By Jim Garamone

Jan. 24, 2004 – Coalition officials reported seven Americans killed in operations in Iraq overnight and today.

Three Task Force All American soldiers were killed and six were wounded when a vehicle-based improvised explosive device detonated in Khalidiyah today, according to a U.S. Central Command release. In addition, several Iraqi civilians were wounded in this attack. The attack is under investigation.

A roadside improvised explosive device exploded and killed two American soldiers this morning north of Fallujah. The city is a center of anti-coalition activity. The device exploded just as a four-vehicle convoy passed. The quick- reaction force – the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment – responded and secured the area. There are no further details, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force 7, during a Baghdad briefing today.

Also, an "aircraft incident" last night killed two Americans. "We have no idea whether the aircraft was shot down or (if the crash was) weather-related," Kimmitt told reporters. The general did say that an accompanying aircraft did not see any ground fire before the helicopter crashed. An accident investigation team is on the scene.

Coalition officials are taking steps to improve security following the Jan. 20 attack on Assassin’s Gate – an access area to the coalition headquarters area in Baghdad – in which 20 Iraqis were killed and another 63 injured. Kimmitt said the coalition always does a careful review of all terrorist incidents with an eye to improve security, and this one is no different.

Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said local Iraqis have not let the attack deter them from reporting to work. "The Iraqi people are not going to be deterred from building a new Iraq," he said. He noted that the frequency and quality of intelligence that has come in to the coalition since the incident has increased.

In the past 24 hours, coalition forces conducted 1,506 patrols, 14 offensive operations and 17 raids, and captured 72 anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi suspects, Kimmitt said.

Forces in Mosul searched more than 800 homes. There were also five drive-by shootings in Mosul that wounded four Iraqi police. Also in the north, coalition forces identified a Fedayeen Saddam leader in Kirkuk they had captured earlier. He was a cell leader in the region.

In Samarra, an IED detonated near the city council building after a military patrol passed. Four Iraqis were killed, one was seriously wounded, and 33 were treated for minor injuries. Four coalition soldiers were also treated for minor injuries in the attack.

In Baghdad, coalition forces conducted 52 simultaneous raids in support of Operation Iron Resolve. Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division detained 24 individuals and seized bomb-making materials, documents and ammunition.

Kimmitt said that over the past week there have been an average of 17 engagements daily against coalition military personnel, just under four attacks daily against Iraqi security forces and a bit more than one attack daily against Iraqi civilians. Coalition officials maintained that conditions remain "relatively stable."

Senor spoke also about the political process. He said the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi Governing Council voted for the November 15th agreement that will turn sovereignty over to an Iraqi government. He said the agreement is open to clarifications and elaborations on the caucus system and broader political process. "But the framework and principles and process going forward stands," he said. "Any modifications would have to adhere to the November 15th framework."

Senor said coalition officials in Iraq are waiting for the deployment of a United Nations team that will assess the viability of direct elections in the country. Many in Iraq, especially Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, want direct elections rather than the caucuses proposed by coalition authorities. The United Nations team has tremendous experience in elections and the coalition will await their report, Senor said.