January 28th, 2007 09:28 EST
Karbala Attackers Used U.S. Army-Styled Uniforms to Gain Access
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2007 – Insurgents who attacked the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq, were dressed in U.S. Army-styled combat uniforms and carried U.S.-type weapons, convincing Iraqi checkpoints to allow them passage, military officials released today.
During the Jan. 20 attack, the enemy fighters captured and killed four U.S. soldiers. Another soldier was also killed and three others wounded in the attack on the center, located about 30 miles south of Baghdad.
Local officials and Iraqi and coalition security forces meet at the center to address security needs.
"The precision of the attack, the equipment used and the possible use of explosives to destroy the military vehicles in the compound suggests that the attack was well rehearsed prior to execution," said Army Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, spokesman for Multinational Division Baghdad. "The attackers went straight to where Americans were located in the provincial government facility, bypassing the Iraqi police in the compound."
At about 5 p.m. that day, a convoy consisting of at least five sport utility vehicles entered the Karbala compound and about 12 armed militants attacked the American troops with rifle fire and hand grenades, officials said.
One soldier was killed and three others wounded by a hand grenade thrown into the center's main office. Other explosions within the compound destroyed three Humvees.
The attackers withdrew with four captured U.S. soldiers and drove out of the Karbala province into the neighboring Babil province. Iraqi police began trailing the assailants after they drew suspicion at a checkpoint.
Three soldiers were found dead and one fatally wounded, along with five abandoned vehicles, near the town of Mahawil. Two were found handcuffed together in the back of one of the vehicles. The other two were found nearby on the ground. One soldier was found alive but died en route to a nearby hospital. All suffered from gunshot wounds.
Also recovered at the site were U.S. Army-type combat uniforms, boots, radios and a non-U.S. made rifle, officials said.
Officials are investigating the breach in security at the center. "We are looking at all the evidence to determine who or what was responsible for the breakdown in security at the compound and the perpetration of the assault," Bleichwehl said. "Our hearts go out to the families of the fallen warriors from Karbala. They were true heroes who fought to the last.”
The names of four of the soldiers have been released. The fifth name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
-- Army 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Neb.;
-- Army Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, La.;
-- Army Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, N.Y.; and
-- Army Pvt. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Ala.
The soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.
(From Multinational Corps Iraq and DoD news releases.)