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BAGDAD - Un soldat américain et deux civils irakiens ont été tués dans des attaques à Bagdad ces deux derniers jours, a fait savoir, le 18 avril 2004, l’armée américaine.
En outre cinq Marines auraient été tués prés de la frontière syrienne, selon un journal américain.
L’armée américaine n’a confirmé que la mort d’un soldat blessé par l’explosion d’une bombe au passage de son convoi, samedi 17 avril 2004, dans l’est de Bagdad.
Deux civils irakiens ont pour leur part été tués par une roquette tirée par des résistants, vendredi 16 avril 2004, sur une base américaine du sud-ouest de la ville.
Selon le site Internet du "Post-Dispatch" de Saint-Louis, cinq Marines ont également été tués dans une attaque près de la frontière avec la Syrie. Le ministère de la défense a indiqué qu’il attendait des rapports d’Irak pour se faire une idée complète de la situation. Le quotidien ajoute que des dizaines de résistants irakiens ont également été tués lors de cette bataille qui s’est prolongée pendant 14 heures.
Près de 300 résistants de Falloujah et Ramadi auraient lancé une offensive contre des US Marines, tôt dans la matinée de samedi 17 avril 2004, près de la ville frontalière de Husaybah.
Ils ont d’abord fait exploser une bombe sur le bord de la route pour faire sortir les Américains de leur base, puis ils ont tiré 24 obus de mortier contre les US Marines qui répondaient à leur attaque, selon le journal.
© SDA-ATS News Service
L’embuscade d’Husaybah, par Ron Harris, du Post-Dispatch
HUSAYBAH, Iraq - Lance Cpl. Dustin Myshrall knew things were going to be bad from the moment he responded to the call for help from his fellow Marines.
"There was nobody on Market Street (the city’s busiest thoroughfare)," said Myshrall, 22, of Baton Rouge, La. "We were flying through the alleys and there weren’t any of the little kids like you normally see. But we didn’t know it was going to be this big."
In some of the fiercest fighting in recent weeks, five Marines were killed and dozens of Iraqi insurgents slain in a daylong battle that began early Saturday in Husaybah. Marines beat back the offensive by what was reported to be hundreds of Iraqis from another area who had slipped into this city just 300 yards east of the Syrian border.
According to Marine intelligence, nearly 300 Iraqi mujahedeen fighters from Fallujah and Ramadi launched the offensive in an outpost next to Husaybah, first setting off a roadside bomb to lure Marines out of their base and then firing 24 mortars as the Marines responded to the first attack.
At least nine Marines were wounded and more than 20 Iraqi fighters were captured in the 14-hour battle. The Iraqi prisoners were taken to the Marines’ main base, Camp Al Qaim, 22 miles east of here, for questioning.
Late Saturday night, Marine Cobra helicopter gunships were still strafing enemy positions around the soccer stadium near downtown Husaybah while medical evacuation helicopters carried wounded Marines back to Camp Al Qaim.
Marines awoke Saturday to the flurry of mortar rounds following the roadside bomb. According to the Marines, the insurgents apparently ignited the bomb as a decoy.
A Marine unit responding to the bomb pulled in front of the former Baath Party headquarters here at around 8:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m. Friday St. Louis time) and were met by rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire.
The unit radioed for help, and a second group of Marines trying to reach them were hit by heavy mortar fire as they traveled along their normal route into the city. Once the second group of Marines arrived in the city, they were strafed by small arms and machine gun fire from insurgents hiding in homes along their route.
All of the slain Marines were killed in the first 90 minutes of the battle, when they went to clear a house and were ambushed by Iraqis hiding in the building.
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Matthew Lopez, said he believed he was able to crush the enemy forces by calling in reinforcements from the rest of his 1000-plus man unit at Camp Al Qaim.
" I don’t think they expected us to respond with the kind of force that we did," said Lopez, 40, of Chicago.
Marines cordoned off the city of about 100000 residents, halting all traffic in and out except for women and children who were fleeing the fighting.
At one point, many of the insurgents reportedly had gathered in a local mosque, and Marines were preparing to bomb the building. They decided not to attack, however, when they couldn’t positively identify the occupants of the mosque.
According to Marine snipers reporting to their commanders by radio, some of the insurgents fired at Marines and then hid behind children.
"We’re trying to get the snipers in position for a shot," Major George Schreffler told the other commanders through tactical radio communications. "They’re looking at guys in blue uniforms and others with black clothes and black masks. Some are using children to shield themselves. We will not take shots in which we could possibly hit children."
By 2:30 p.m., Marines had begun sweeping through the city and closing down exit routes.
"Tell the Marines "be careful", because there are a lot of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on the East End Road," one commander told the other officers over the radio.
By 3 p.m., the entire battalion was either engaged in the fight or preparing to relieve those who were already fighting.
By 4:30 p.m., Marines had called in the first Cobra gunships, which strafed a number of enemy positions and backed ground units that were converging on enemy sites.
By 6 p.m., Marines had the insurgents on the run. Fire from .50-caliber machine guns, 40 mm grenades, M-16s and Marine mortars crackled and exploded through the city.
"Yeah, get some," said Pfc. Patrick Patenge, 19, of Mesa, Ariz.
For many of the Marines, the fight was a chance to finally strike back at an elusive enemy that has been killing and maiming their friends through roadside bombs, land mines and ambush attacks.
"It doesn’t feel real"
Sitting in the back of a green ambulance at the soccer field, Lance Cpl. Raul Gonzalez, 18, of Monroeville, Ala., said he was trying to help a fellow Marine who had been shot through the cheek when he was injured in the foot by a rocket-propelled grenade that did not explode.
Lance Cpl. Christopher Nimbus, 19, was wounded in the left shoulder by shrapnel when another rocket-propelled grenade exploded as he and another Marine were making their way into the town from the south.
"The other guy, he was hurt really bad," said Nimbus, who sustained a minor injury. "He had leg wounds and his arms were hit pretty bad."
Lance Cpl. Austin Herbel, 21, escaped injuries when one of his tires was shot out and a bullet came through the window of his Humvee and ricocheted around the interior of the vehicle.
"I’m one of the lucky ones," said Herbel, of Colby, Kan.
Myshrall, who was in one of the first groups to respond to the early assaults, knew all of the men who were killed. Four were his close friends.
"It’s tough," said Myshrall, who drove the bodies of his friends to Camp Al Qaim so they could be taken back to the United States. "It doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t look real."
Lance Cpl. Francisco Villegas, 28, also knew the men closely. He drove the truck that carried the captured Iraqis who may have killed his friends. "It hurts," he said. "It hurts. You don’t think it could happen to people you know, and especially these guys. They were exceptional. You just never thought it would happen to them. They were everybody’s friend."
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