Video Shows Coalition Forces Didn’t Desecrate Mosque in Jan. 1
By Sgt. 1st
Class Doug Sample
Jan. 4, 2004
— Coalition Provisional Authority and military officials in Baghdad,
Iraq, today showed reporters a video as proof that coalition and
Iraqi security forces took extra care not to desecrate the holy
site during a raid of a mosque Jan. 1.
reported protests by angry Sunni Iraqis, who accused U.S. soldiers
of ripping pages from the mosque’s Quran during a New Year’s Day
raid at the Ibn Taymiyah mosque near the Iraqi capital. During
the raid, coalition and Iraqi security forces uncovered a large
cache of weapons and took 34 people into custody.
spokesman Dan Senor and Army Brig. Gen Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations
director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters the video
gives "a better sense beyond words" of what happened
during the raid.
shows coalition soldiers, as well as Iraqi Civil Defense Corps
and Iraqi Security Forces, taking part in the raid. ICDC soldiers
helped guard the suspects detained during the operation.
the video also dispels claims that coalition soldiers mistreated
the mosque’s sheik. Kimmitt said the leader was treated just like
the rest of the detainees and was not assaulted in any way. In
fact, Kimmitt told reporters, the entire operation was a fairly
calm. "Everybody was very compliant during the entire operation,"
he said, adding that no weapons were fired at or inside the mosque.
audio portion of the video is not heard, Kimmitt told reporters
that before soldiers entered the mosque, those inside were repeatedly
told, "to lie on their stomachs with their hands stretched
out, and (to) stay away from any weapons."
He said that
message was constantly being broadcast throughout the operation.
"That was for the benefit of personnel inside the mosque,
and the ICDC, who led the operation into the mosque," Kimmitt
also shows soldiers rolling up and searching under rugs inside
the mosque. Kimmitt explained that the coalition had intelligence
that tunnels were hidden under the mosque, and soldiers were looking
for entrances possibly hidden under the rugs.
tunnels were found, the general said, soldiers did find weapons
and ammunition being stored inside the mosque. Kimmitt said a
"significant amount" of gunpowder was recovered during
the raid, as well as hand grenades, detonation cords, TNT and
several AK-47 assault rifles. He said the weapons and ammunition
stockpile was large enough to fill two trucks, and was "clearly
beyond what would be used for self-protection."
reporters the image of the weapons alone was the one thing struck
him most about the video — not the fact that soldiers were in
the mosque, but that "a holy site, a holy mosque, which is
a place for free expression, was being used as an arms cache,"
was anyone disrespecting the religious sanctity of a mosque, it
was the individuals who were using it as a safe house for weapons
and organizing of attacks," Senor said.
Kimmitt said the video shows that ICDC and coalition soldiers
jointly taking detainees into custody. This was done, he said,
"as a way of showing dignity and respect."
said Jan. 2 that some of the 34 people detained might have been
foreign fighters. And he told reporters today that the coalition
still is trying to determine the nationality of some of those
detained in the operation.
said about two-thirds of the detainees were released once they
provided credible information that they were at the mosque for
legitimate reasons and were not part of anti-coalition activities.
the coalition consulted with a number of Iraqis before releasing
the video, and that during the operation, ICDC and Iraqi police
were "fully integrated." Intelligence for the raid,
he added, was based on information provided by Iraqi people.
reporters the video is evidence of increasing "handover of
authority to the Iraqi people, and especially to Iraqi security
in Iraq there are more Iraqis in security forces, more Iraqis
defending their own country than there are Americans in Iraq,"
the coalition spokesman said. "Iraqis are proud that they
are on the front lines in securing their own country; they are
proud that they are contributing to efforts that will capture
or kill people who are trying to undermine the reconstruction
In other news,
although three soldiers were reported as being killed in the past
48 hours, Kimmitt told reporters that the area of operations around
Baghdad has been relatively stable. He said that over the past
week, the average number of attacks against coalition forces has
been about 22 per day. There is at least one attack per day against
Iraqi security forces and civilians, he added.
Kimmitt said, the military offensive and stability operations
continue throughout the country. In the past 24 hours, he said,
coalition and Iraqi forces conducted 1,560 patrol, 26 offensive
operations and 17 raids, and captured 83 anti-coalition suspects.
In the northeast
zone of operations, a cordon-and-search operation netted a targeted
suspect in the July 24 ambush that killed three coalition soldiers.
Another such operation in Mosul led to the capture of an associate
of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and 11 other personnel, he said. Meanwhile,
Senor said, the military is stepping up offensive operations to
root out the financiers of the attacks against coalition forces.