No call for U.S. help from Fallujah police after station ambush
VOLTURNO FOB, Iraq — Iraq’s civil defense force asked U.S. soldiers not to aid a besieged Fallujah police station Saturday to keep the defenders from losing face with locals, according to the U.S. commander of coalition forces in the area.
At least 25 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on the police station and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps compound. On Monday, a team of six U.S. congressmen and several members of the Iraqi Governing Council laid a wreath at the Baghdad Police Academy in memory of 17 police officers killed during the attack.
Col. Jefforey Smith, commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, now based in Fallujah, said U.S. soldiers prepared to head to the police station after hearing gunfire.
However, the troops at Volturno Forward Operating Base, about seven miles from the police station, were held back at the request of the commander of the 506th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion.
Shortly after the attack started the commander arrived at Volturno seeking weapons and ammunition.
“I asked if he wanted us to send an element but he said [the ICDC and Iraqi police] had the situation under control. We had four military ambulances standing by but he said they didn’t need them,” Smith said.
“He almost demanded we not put forces into Fallujah at that time because it would damage their credibility with the people there if they could not protect themselves.”
Smith promised not to intervene for two hours and provided the civil defense corps with 20,000 rounds of ammunition for their AK-47 weapons and machine guns.
Fallujah police chief Abud Farhan Jrad Al-Isawi said he would have accepted help from U.S. troops during the attack.
“I didn’t refuse to call for the Americans’ help, but there was no communication. It was my wish but it didn’t happen,” he said.
Al-Isawi said before the attack he asked the U.S. troops to stay inside their bases and leave security at Fallujah to his forces.
“We told our American guests to be safe and take their rest at the outskirts of the city and we’ll do the job inside,” he said.
Only a few U.S. soldiers are needed to deter terrorist attacks in Fallujah because there is only a small anti-American element there, he said.
Despite the heavy casualties during the attack on the station, there are positive aspects to the police and ICDC response, Smith said.
For example, an ICDC battalion recently trained by the coalition, repelled an attack on their headquarters in Fallujah that coincided with the police station attack.
“And this time the Iraqi police fought,” he said. “We have been working with them for six and a half months. When we came here in August they were incompetent. If people started firing they would drop their weapons and run.”
The Fallujah police still need more training and better equipment, he added.
“They had handguns and AK-47s and the enemy had machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. They were totally outgunned,” he said.
The Army’s response to the attack will include more joint patrols with Iraqi police and the ICDC in Fallujah, Smith said.
“There has been a hesitancy on their part to want to do joint operations because of fear for their own safety working in and around coalition forces,” Smith said. “Police officers and ICDC didn’t want to work arm-and-arm with us.
“That is not how we feel. There will be a short-term period where they will want to work more closely with us. Once they feel like the environment is as normal as it can get, they will start separating themselves from us.”
Smith said his soldiers are working hard to catch the people responsible for the police station attack.
Sunday night the 505th captured nine more people during raids in Fallujah, and Smith said he believed those detainees would furnish more information about the attack.