Thursday, July 12, 2007

Perspective: The ambush in Karbala

Left, top: Johnathan Millican was the first to die in the attack when he threw himself atop a concussion grenade to save 4 others in the room. Severely wounded, he was shot in the back of the head by the attackers. Left, bottom: Brian Freeman was the only one found alive when help finally arrived, but mortally wouned he died on the way to the hospital, the last of the four abducted soldiers to die.

Before the night erupted in violence, it was unusually quiet in the Karbala government compound where American troops and Iraqi police were encamped Jan. 20, according to a previously undisclosed Army investigation...

On that Saturday night, U.S. soldiers relaxed on their cots listening to music, watching videos or instant messaging family at home. 1st Lt. Jacob Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Neb., sat at his laptop computer in his room. He had just loaned another soldier his copy of the movie Miami Vice. Pfc. Shawn Falter, 25, of Cortland, N.Y., grabbed a sandwich before joining Spc. Johnathan Chism, 22, of Gonzales, La., for sentry duty in a Humvee at the front gate.

Iraqi police usually filled the compound. But that evening, mysteriously none was there, according to Army investigators. Iraqi vendors had suddenly closed up shop and gone home early...

About 6 p.m., a column of five to seven SUVs moved toward the government center. The SUVs had false antennas to make them look like Pentagon contractor vehicles. The men inside spoke English, wore American uniforms and helmets and appeared to be armed with U.S. weapons.

Iraqi checkpoint guards either let them pass or were disarmed at gunpoint, according to the investigation. "The attackers, pretending to be American, used short U.S. phrases that the Iraqi police could understand: 'Sit down,' 'Stop,' 'Go,'. The insurgents moved and spoke like Americans and acted as if their presence was a normal occurrence."

Read the rest at USA Today