Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Attack on U.S. Base in Iraq Leaves 20 Dead

BAGHDAD, Iraq - An explosion tore through a soft-sided mess tent where U.S. soldiers were eating lunch Tuesday at a military base near the northern city of Mosul, blowing a hole in the ceiling and leaving the floor littered with trays of food and puddles of blood. Officials said at least 20 people were killed in one of the most devastating attacks against Americans in Iraq since the start of the war.

A spokesman for U.S. military headquarters in Baghdad said 19 of the dead were American soldiers, which would make it the deadliest single strike against U.S. troops in this country. However, a military spokesman in Mosul said 14 U.S. troops died in the blast, which came just four days before Christmas.

Inside the tent, U.S. soldiers reacted quickly. With people screaming and thick smoke billowing, soldiers turned their lunch tables upside down, placed the wounded on them and gently carried them into the parking lot, said Jeremy Redmon, a reporter for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch embedded with the troops in Mosul.

A radical Sunni Muslim group, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed responsibility for the attack, which officials said wounded about 60 people — the latest in a week of deadly strikes across Iraq that highlighted the unwavering power of the insurgents in the run-up to the Jan. 30 national elections..

A U.S. military official said authorities believe the damage was caused by at least one large-caliber artillery round or rocket. Another official said it was possible the explosive had been planted.

Portland (Maine) Press Herald photographer Gregory Rec, who was sleeping about a quarter-mile from the mess hall when he was awakened by the loud explosion, said he rushed to the scene, where a soldier told him "he heard a whoosh, he looked up and saw a fireball halfway between the ceiling and the floor."

The blast at Forward Operating Base Marez came hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a surprise visit to Baghdad and spoke of a "battle between democracy and terror."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, responding to a question about how Iraqis will be able to safely get to some 9,000 polling places if U.S. troops can't secure their own bases, said there was "security and peace" in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, was relatively peaceful in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime last year. But insurgent attacks in the largely Sunni area have increased dramatically in the past year — particularly since the U.S.-led military offensive in November to retake Fallujah from militants.

Like most mess halls at U.S. bases in Iraq, the meal area at Base Marez is covered with a tent. Insurgents have fired mortars at the mess hall more than 30 times this year, Redmon said.

Mortar attacks on U.S. bases, particularly on the huge white tents that serve as dining halls, have been frequent in Iraq for more than a year. Just last month, for example, a mortar attack on a Mosul base killed two troops with Task Force Olympia, the reinforced brigade responsible for security in much of northern Iraq.

Bill Nemitz, a columnist with the Portland Press Herald who was embedded with the troops in Mosul, told CNN that he heard "a lot of discussion" about the vulnerability of the tent.

Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a spokesman for Task Force Olympia, acknowledged the tent's vulnerability and told CNN the military is building a new dining facility at the base — a concrete structure that Nemitz said was supposed to have been ready for Christmas.

"There is a level of vulnerability when you go in there and you don't feel like there's a ... hard roof over your head," Hastings told CNN.

Base Marez, also known as the al-Ghizlani military camp, is three miles south of Mosul and is used by both U.S. troops and the interim Iraqi government's security forces. It once was Mosul's civilian airport but is now a heavily fortified area surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire. Its two main gates are guarded by U.S. troops; Iraqi National Guard members man checkpoints outside to prevent cars from getting close without being searched.



Casualty reports fluctuated throughout the day, with military officials and others giving conflicting figures.

Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, spokesman for the Coalition Press Information Center, the military headquarters in Baghdad, said 19 U.S. troops were killed, along with three other soldiers of unknown nationality, and that 57 people were wounded. Hastings, however, said about 20 people died, including 14 American troops, and about 60 were injured.

"The number is very chaotic, we've had different numbers," Hastings said.

Halliburton Co., a Houston-based company whose subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root supplies food service and other support activities for U.S. troops in Mosul, said seven of its employees and subcontractors were killed in the blast. Their nationalities were not disclosed.

Earlier, Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of Task Force Olympia, said U.S. military personnel, American and foreign nationals and Iraqi soldiers were among the dead. "It is indeed a very, very sad day," Ham said.

Redmon said the dead included two soldiers from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion, which had just sat down to eat. The force knocked soldiers off their feet and out of their seats as a fireball enveloped the top of the tent and shrapnel sprayed into the area, Redmon said.

Scores of troops crammed into concrete bomb shelters, while others wandered around in a daze and collapsed, he said.

"I can't hear! I can't hear!" one female soldier cried as a friend hugged her.

A huge hole was blown in the roof of the tent, and puddles of blood, lunch trays and overturned tables and chairs covered the floor, Redmon reported.

Near the front entrance, troops tended a soldier with a serious head wound, but within minutes, they zipped him into a black body bag, he said. Three more bodies were in the parking lot.

"It was very hard to watch and very chaotic but at the same time what amazed me was that within 20 minutes the worst of the wounded, the ones who needed the most attention, were out of there. It was just a remarkable effort by all the soldiers involved. From what I could see they performed flawlessly."

In addition to the two soldiers in the Richmond unit, two soldiers from Maine National Guard's 133rd Engineer Battalion were killed and 12 were wounded, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Redmon and photographer Dean Hoffmeyer are embedded with the 276th Engineer Battalion, a Richmond, Va., National Guard unit that can trace its lineage to the First Virginia Regiment of Volunteers formed in 1652. George Washington and Patrick Henry were two of its early commanders. Henry created the unit's motto, "Liberty or Death."

The base is also used by members of the Stryker Brigade, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., a military official said.

The Ansar al-Sunnah Army claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on the Internet. It said the attack was a "martyrdom operation" targeting a mess hall.

Ansar al-Sunna is believed to be a fundamentalist group that wants to turn Iraq into an Islamic state like Afghanistan's former Taliban regime. The Sunni group claimed responsibility for beheading 12 Nepalese hostages and other recent attacks in Mosul.

Before Tuesday, Mosul was the scene of the deadliest single incident for U.S. troops in Iraq. On Nov. 15, 2003, two Black Hawk helicopters collided over the city, killing 17 soldiers and injuring five. The crash occurred as the choppers maneuvered to avoid ground fire.


4 Comments:

Blogger oakleyses said...

chanel handbags, christian louboutin uk, prada handbags, ray ban sunglasses, gucci handbags, michael kors outlet online, uggs outlet, uggs outlet, ray ban sunglasses, prada outlet, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet online, kate spade outlet, ugg boots, oakley sunglasses, replica watches, nike air max, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses, burberry handbags, tiffany jewelry, polo outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, christian louboutin, nike outlet, tory burch outlet, jordan shoes, burberry outlet, replica watches, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin outlet, uggs on sale, nike free, louis vuitton, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet, ugg boots, louis vuitton, christian louboutin shoes, cheap oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet online, nike air max, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale, louis vuitton outlet

March 8, 2016 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

true religion outlet, abercrombie and fitch uk, ralph lauren uk, mulberry uk, michael kors outlet, michael kors, hollister pas cher, hollister uk, polo lacoste, nike air max uk, converse pas cher, sac vanessa bruno, nike blazer pas cher, north face, nike air force, ray ban uk, true religion outlet, nike roshe, nike free uk, replica handbags, longchamp pas cher, lululemon canada, sac longchamp pas cher, coach purses, nike air max uk, jordan pas cher, kate spade, ray ban pas cher, timberland pas cher, louboutin pas cher, oakley pas cher, polo ralph lauren, nike air max, north face uk, true religion jeans, sac hermes, guess pas cher, hogan outlet, michael kors, new balance, nike roshe run uk, michael kors pas cher, true religion outlet, burberry pas cher, nike free run, coach outlet store online, nike tn, coach outlet, air max, vans pas cher

March 8, 2016 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

north face outlet, ipad cases, lululemon, ferragamo shoes, bottega veneta, jimmy choo outlet, hermes belt, beats by dre, iphone 6 plus cases, timberland boots, soccer shoes, iphone 6s cases, chi flat iron, mont blanc pens, insanity workout, celine handbags, iphone 6 cases, louboutin, ghd hair, nike roshe run, wedding dresses, new balance shoes, soccer jerseys, hollister clothing, s6 case, nike air max, nfl jerseys, iphone cases, baseball bats, mcm handbags, valentino shoes, reebok outlet, asics running shoes, longchamp uk, north face outlet, vans outlet, abercrombie and fitch, babyliss, giuseppe zanotti outlet, oakley, p90x workout, hollister, instyler, herve leger, iphone 6s plus cases, mac cosmetics, ralph lauren, nike trainers uk, nike huaraches, iphone 5s cases

March 8, 2016 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, canada goose, moncler, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, pandora uk, canada goose outlet, converse, toms shoes, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, pandora jewelry, ray ban, canada goose outlet, louis vuitton, nike air max, louis vuitton, moncler, hollister, ugg, marc jacobs, canada goose outlet, canada goose jackets, ugg pas cher, karen millen uk, replica watches, moncler outlet, gucci, canada goose, louis vuitton, barbour, juicy couture outlet, moncler outlet, hollister, ugg uk, coach outlet, thomas sabo, supra shoes, pandora charms, swarovski, barbour uk, links of london, converse outlet, canada goose uk, montre pas cher, canada goose, swarovski crystal, vans, moncler, juicy couture outlet, moncler, lancel, doudoune moncler

March 8, 2016 at 9:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home