Skip to comments.Hundreds of Iraqis killed in four-day battle for Kifl (3rd Infantry UPDATE)
Posted on 03/29/2003 12:36:17 PM PST by 11th_VA
KIFL, Iraq, March 29 (Reuters) - When U.S. tanks rumbled into this town on the Euphrates river, irregular Iraqi forces set up sniper nests up and down the main street, opening fire from doors, windows, market stalls and patches of open ground.
A crimson sunset painted the street red and visibility fell to less than five meters (15 feet) as a swirling sand and dust storm kicked up when the guerrilla units attacked.
U.S. officers said fighters in minivans, pick-up trucks and cars drove straight at the oncoming tanks. Others took to canoes, rowing down the river and trying to fix explosives to the main bridge.
But the guerrilla-style forces were vastly outgunned by the tanks of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, and hundreds of Iraqis have died in this town over the last four days.
The officers said the tank unit fired two 120 mm high velocity depleted uranium rounds straight down the main road, creating a powerful vacuum that literally sucked guerrillas out from their hideaways into the street, where they were shot down by small arms fire or run over by the tanks.
"It was mad chaos like you cannot imagine," said the tank unit's commander, who identified himself as "Cobra 6" as he did not want friends and neighbours back home to know what he had been through.
"We took a lot of fire, and we gave a lot of fire," he said.
"You couldn't see anything except all those hues of red and the sound of fire from all sides. It was not earthly. I'll have nightmares about it."
Dozens of bodies still littered the streets on Saturday.
Some were wrapped in blue and black body bags, but others were still out in the open, rotting in the midday sun. Several spilled out of their charred and shattered cars and trucks, burned beyond recognition.
Iraq's efforts to stall the U.S. military advance towards Baghdad appear to include putting elite officers in with irregular paramilitary or guerrilla structures at strategic points.
In Kifl, which lies north of Najaf and about 130 km (81 miles) south of Baghdad, the strategy may have slowed the U.S. forces, but only at an extremely high cost.
Some U.S. soldiers estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqis were killed here since the fighting began at dusk on Wednesday, and everyone puts the number in the hundreds.
Officers say just one U.S. soldier has died.
Sporadic mortar fire and bursts of sniper fire kept U.S. troops alert in the town late on Saturday, but officers said most of the resistance in the town had been overcome.
The main danger was now posed by an artillery unit about 16 km (10 miles) to the north.
"I'm sure there are still some knuckleheads in the town, but the real problem is what's outside," said Colonel Joseph Anderson of the 101st Airborne Division, which moved in to help secure Kifl on Saturday.
Wave after wave of Iraqi soldiers and paramilitaries had set up mortar positions at an old brick factory on the edge of town, getting dropped off from civilian vehicles at a large tree that U.S. forces here now call the "Gateway to Hell".
U.S. officers said they had destroyed up to 50 vehicles making drop-offs there, adding the brick factory, like much of Kifl, was now virtually abandoned.
The canoes lie empty on the river beds and only U.S. soldiers walk up and down the town's main streets.
Some families were still seen in their homes on the edge of town on Saturday, tending to sheep and goats as U.S. tanks and trucks rolled by with nervous soldiers looking out over the fields, their guns loaded for any new guerrilla threat.
While the guerrilla tactics appeared to have failed in Kifl, the Iraqis claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb which killed at least four U.S. soldiers on Saturday at a military checkpoint near Najaf.
Now, does "DU" stand for "Depleted Underground?"
Agreed. Their apogee was reached during the Abbisad Caliphate (700-900 AD). Their decline since then has been truly remarkable -- they have fallen far more than did Roman civilization.
Both refer to incredibly dense things.
Holy Shi'ite! That's incredible. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of scum-bags.
Thta is amazing, but I don't understand. Could someone more educated explain this?
I hope there is video of this!!
It's called the 'Hoover Maneuver' ;)
LOL! New secret weapon: Orek vacuum cleaner with the anti-personnel attachment!
Some U.S. soldiers estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqis were killed .......
Officers say just one U.S. soldier has died.
That is correct. The one U.S. soldier's life is a high cost.
Now that's a heavy duty vacuum!!!
No, no. The 80-ton Orrick.
I would gladly volunteer for an over hill unit of trigger pullers. Let crippled has beens like me go out in a blaze of glory instead of someone's young son or husband or father.
Wow. Thank you, Congressman. Is there no possibility, then, that the DU round would pass completely through the tank harmlessly, as per your wall example?
Task Force 269 Armor has been near the central Iraqi town of Kifl for the past week. Its job is to protect a road bridge.
Kifl lies about 16 kilometers north of Najaf, on the east side of the Euphrates River. The U.S. Army wants to keep the town's bridge intact, in case its tanks and heavy armored vehicles need to cross it during its advance on Baghdad.
But holding the bridge has been no easy task. Soldiers in Task Force 269 Armor say ever since they arrived in town, they have come under frequent night-time attacks by militiamen fanatically loyal to Saddam Hussein.
An officer in the unit, Major Jon Segars, says the unit has been mortared several times and ambushed in various ways. He says he believes the fighters are die-hard members of Fedayeen Saddam. Roughly translated from Arabic, the name means "those who sacrifice themselves for Saddam." "What we had yesterday was a guy driving a truck, coming from the north out of Al-Hillah into Al-Kifl, " said Major Segars. "We shot him with a 120 mm HEAT [High Energy Anti-Tank] round, which is a high explosive round and hit the truck, which is the normal procedure for trucks. Instead of killing him, he barreled out of the truck. We continued to shoot him with the machine gun as he came towards the tank. What was amazing was he took many hits from a 7.62 mm machine gun and kept coming until we basically had to cut his head off with the machine gun to get him to stop."
[one tough dude]
3rd Infantry soldiers recover bodies of Iraqi soldiers.
By Noelle Phillips
Savannah Morning News
AL KIFL, IRAQ -- All is quiet now except for the rumble of engines in U.S. military vehicles.
The Euphrates River silently flows underneath the bridge where those vehicles idle.
Occasionally, a dog barks or a rooster crows.
Don't let the peaceful scene deceive.
One by one, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers stop by charred cars, trucks or vans to pull dead Iraqis from inside. They silently lay their bloodied bodies in bags, zip them shut and then ease the body bags onto the back of a cargo truck.
The soldiers have very little to say.
It is a gruesome reminder that war is ugly.
Pvt. Jarrod Wise, a 24-year-old in the 92nd Chemical Company, held his M-16 rifle, constantly scanning a muddy stucco house for signs of snipers. Wise only saw chickens and roosters pecking the dirt as he provided security for those loading the bodies.
"This is something we've got to do. I think we're doing it as professionally as possible," Wise said. "I put my faith in the Lord and He will get me through it. He's calmed my nerves a whole lot."
Within a few hours Friday, the soldiers had collected the remains of 23 Iraqi fighters. Four others were charred beyond recognition and left behind.
Another four were left inside their Mercedes-Benz because soldiers feared a booby trap, said Sgt. Raymond Nixon, a mortuary specialist with the 3rd Forward Support Battalion. Nixon saw a wire wrapped around one man's ankle and tied to an AK-47 rifle.
The Iraqi soldiers were killed during a battle with the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade. The battle was fought for control of the bridge, and it will be part of the division's path toward Baghdad.
Most of the dead were not from the town of Al Kifl, said Col. Will Grimsley, 1st Brigade commander. Instead, they were sent south by Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to fight the Americans.
During the battle, the brigade's tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles would block intersections and roadways. The Iraqis attacked by loading three to five men in cars, vans -- even a dump truck -- and driving full steam ahead toward the tanks and Bradleys, Grimsley said. The Iraqis fired their weapons as they drove.
"We'd shoot a machine gun at them and they wouldn't stop," Grimsley said. "We finally just had to shoot them before they ran into something."
A few Iraqis launched sniper attacks from canoes in the river, Grimsley said.
"This is ungodly," he said.
Grimsley stood in the middle of the town's main road Friday afternoon, where empty shell casings littered the streets. He pointed out a girls' school where Iraqis had built fighting positions on the roof by using grain bags that had been intended as food aid.
After three and a half days of fighting, the 1st Brigade took control of the bridge and prepared to move out from there.
"We hope this is over," Grimsley said. "We've had enough of this right here."
Infantry and armor soldiers rested under the shade of palm trees and leaned against the dusty stucco walls of buildings in town. Few local people walked the streets. When they did, soldiers searched them for weapons.
On the bridge, four soldiers wrestled bodies from a black and silver Kia Pregio minivan. The bodies were lodged under seats and hanging out the side doors. The rear window was blown out and shattered glass covered the roadway.
One soldier dropped to his knees, struggling to hold off sickness.
Nixon will never forget covering the bodies of a mother, father and child. The family may have been hit by a delivery truck commandeered by Iraqi fighters for the battle, Nixon said. The delivery truck's blue walls were riddled with bullet holes. Candy bar wrappers were scattered across the street.
"That was a hard one," Nixon said.
The U.S. military cleans up the bodies to prevent diseases from being spread after they decompose, Nixon said. The body bags were laid in rows of five on a shaded roadside so that the deceased's heads faced Mecca, the holy city for Muslims. Later, the Red Cross will recover the bodies and try to identify the dead, he said.
Nixon was recovering bodies because it is his job. Commanders assigned most of the others to the job.
Spc. Molly Frazier, 21, of the 123rd Signal Battalion, worked so hard bagging bodies and guarding others that she didn't have time to think about what she was seeing.
"They told me, 'You need to go on a detail' and it was this," Frazier said as she wrinkled her nose and curled her lips in disgust. "It's awful."
However, Pfc. Michael High volunteered. High enlisted as an infantry soldier, but had been assigned to work in his battalion's headquarters for the war. He thought the task would challenge his toughness as a soldier.
"I've never seen a body that's been through a battle. The only bodies I've ever seen were in a funeral home," High said. "It opens your eyes. Two seconds can take your life so always be alert out there."
When soldiers returned to their base camp Friday evening, Sgt. 1st Class Randy Caswell gathered them in a circle. First, he made sure no one took property from the bodies as a war souvenir. Then, he encouraged the soldiers to talk with a chaplain to come to terms with the gruesome task.
"What y'all have seen today will live in your minds for awhile," Caswell said. "You actually gave these guys a service. Instead of letting them lay in the street, you picked them up and gave them some dignity."
Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade perform the grim task of removing the bodies of Iraqi combatants from the streets of the town Al Kifl on Euphrates River following a fire fight the night before. </MCC CAPTION>-John Carrington/Savannah Morning News
A group of 1st Brigade scouts passes by a burned out Toyota pickup truck with a gun mount in its bed on the road leading to the town of Al Kifl, the site of a fire fight between Iraqi troops and 1st Brigde soldiers the previous evening. -John Carrington/Savannah Morning News
One can only imagine when this Reuters Art Bell report gets around to the Iraqi soldiers, they will not be hiding if they see our tanks coming at them.
Disinfo and Pysops at its best.
If only we had been blessed with Reuters during WWII, we could have stayed home.
One could never imagine the Iraqis giving a US soldier a Christian burial. Even in defeat, the Iraqis don't deserve the US Military.
The author had this neat phrase he wanted to use but didn't have any place where it would be relevant, or else he doesn't even know what it means, so he just inserted it almost randomly.
This is how it will have to be. The Fedayeen must be exterminated to a man.
Jimmy Carter might.
Appears we were using the Dragemoff counter technique.
Is it suction, or is it a shock wave effect? I think these rounds are supersonic. Along a narrow street, the shock wave would bash people hard, and then they'd simply fall down.
At any rate, I'll bet nobody outside those tankers even knew you could do that.
Well, they knew how to fight the way THEY were accustomed to fighting. But their way of fighting was more like a game than war.
When they really wanted to put one over on the enemy, they did it sneakily, at night, slitting throats and stealing horses.
When they went "visible" it was no more "war" than a teens' game of "Capture the Flag."
FWIW, this myth that they were a "great horse cavalry" is baloney.
Is the tank commander having a litle fun with the reporter?
Dunno the subject first hand, but that's how I'd bet.
Just reading this makes me smile.