Roadside bomb, snipers hit convoy, but no soldiers are injured
Stars and Stripes May 17, 2008
BAGHDAD — A small American convoy was hit with a roadside bomb and ambushed from rooftops for nearly an hour Thursday less than 300 meters from a heavily defended U.S. base in eastern Baghdad. None of the American soldiers was injured in the attack. They reported killing seven attackers.
The attack was unusual both for its determined nature and its proximity to a U.S. base, and came as further indication that significant numbers of Shiite militiamen are paying little heed to a nearly week-old cease fire.
"Those guys were weren’t running away," said Army Lt. Sebastian Salas, 26, of New Palz, N.Y., who leads the platoon that was hit Thursday.
Clashes have also continued elsewhere in and near Sadr City since a cease-fire was announced Monday between the Iraqi government and clerics loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. The cease-fire was aimed at ending six weeks of fighting in the sprawling Shiite slum.
Salas’ platoon, part of Company C, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, was on its second trip from Forward Operating Base Rustimayah to help remove debris from a destroyed observation tower when it was hit at about 11 a.m., Salas said.
The bomb, an explosively formed penetrator with both a copper and steel charge, lodged in the wheel well and engine block of one of the convoy’s two Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, disabling it.
Salas said he saw a "trigger man" running away and opened fire.
"I don’t know if I hit him," he said.
A few minutes later, he said, the platoon started taking fire from nearby rooftops. Soon, there was "shooting from everywhere," said Sgt. Brandon McDaniel, 25, of Dallas.
The platoon responded with rifle and machine-gun fire, and the gunners on both MRAPs opened up with .50-caliber machine guns, Salas said. He said the platoon killed three gunmen on the rooftops, but after about 10 minutes of calm, other gunmen returned and resumed the attack. That pattern repeated itself several times, he said.
As a small contingent of reinforcements began to arrive from the American base, two cars approached the platoon on the road. Salas said both ignored warning shots.
"The gunner destroyed the one truck with the 50-cal," he said. "There was another truck coming and I shot that driver. Another guy in the truck ran away and it looked like he had a weapon."
Helicopter gunships arrived around noon, but by then the fighting had died down.
Salas said he believed the gunmen had continued their attack because they saw that the convoy was relatively lightly defended.
"It’s just crazy because that’s our (area)," he said. "We’ve done numerous patrols there. We’ve been shot at a couple times, but never anything like that. It was right outside the FOB."