Insurgents open fire near crowded Fallujah highway
FALLUJAH, Iraq — The area west of Baghdad has proved perilous this week, with gunfights erupting Friday in Fallujah, a deadly helicopter crash on Thursday and a mortar attack on Wednesday.
At about 11:45 a.m. Friday, the rapid fire of automatic weapons could clearly be heard near the main highway entrance to Fallujah. Iraqis began honking, turning around and at least one got out of his car and hid behind it. Iraqi security troops routed traffic away from the entrance.
Two U.S. soldiers also could be seen monitoring the melee from the roadside.
An armed Iraqi forcing traffic to turn around said insurgents had fired rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and heavy machine guns at American forces in the town.
“They fired at us, and also at the U.S. military with tanks,” the Iraqi said. “The U.S. went in to seize them.”
American soldiers earlier had blocked access to the highway leading from Baghdad to Fallujah.
However, military personnel at the coalition’s press center in Baghdad had no further information, said the public affairs officer, Capt. Patricia Matthews.
Officials with the 82nd Airborne Division, which is responsible for Fallujah, could not be reached for comment.
The Defense Department has not released the names of the nine soldiers who died after their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed southeast of Fallujah on Thursday. No one survived.
The helicopter had been on a medevac mission and was clearly marked with a red cross.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of military operations in Iraq, denied early reports that the helicopter was from the 82nd Airborne Division.
The military did not announce the cause of the crash. The Associated Press, however, reported that an Iraqi farmer claimed to have heard a “whoosh” and saw a rocket strike the chopper in the tail.
Meanwhile, most of the 30 troops wounded Wednesday evening in the mortar strike on Logistical Base Seitz are back on duty, the Wiesbaden, Germany-based 3rd Corps Support Command announced.
One soldier was killed, though the military had not released the soldier’s name as of Friday afternoon.
Twenty of those injured are again serving in their units. The other 10 were still being treated, the command announced Thursday evening.
Six 60 mm mortar rounds exploded inside the post at about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.
The command’s spokesman, Maj. Scott Slaten in Balad, did not return a request for additional comment or interviews.