U.S., Iraqis experience highs, lows on voting day
MUQDADIYAH, Iraq — The widely anticipated surge in violence and combat surrounding the constitutional referendum last week was punctuated by incremental victories and setbacks for U.S. and Iraqi security forces here.
On the U.S. side, soldiers celebrated the detention of a notorious insurgent captured last week amid nighttime fighting at a polling site. Iraqi police arrested and turned over Ayub Ali, who is believed to be responsible for a two-year campaign of roadside bombs, political assassination and other attacks in the areas surrounding Muqdadiyah and nearby Baqouba.
“He’s not so much a Islamic extremist as he is a gun–for–hire type of criminal,” said Capt. Alexander Marrone, head of intelligence for Task Force 1–30 here at Forward Operating Base Normandy.
After his arrest, Ali “sang like a bird,” Marrone said. U.S. forces hope information from Ali will lead to further arrests.
On election night, U.S. forces also killed two men who were seen digging holes after curfew on a road where several roadside bombs have been discovered in recent weeks and where two Special Forces soldiers was killed last week. The men digging the holes were killed by a barrage of large–scale artillery fired from the base, soldiers said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces suffered a series of attacks that killed four Iraqi army soldiers and six local police.
After a day of relative calm at the polls, a roadside bomb killed two Iraqi soldiers who were carrying ballots from a poll site back to the base Saturday night.
News of the deaths and four other wounded soldiers was devastating to the Iraqis based here. Dozens of soldiers crowded around the medical unit on the Iraqi side of Forward Operating Base Normandy as the casualties were brought in.
One of the soldiers was killed in the blast, while the another died of severe burns shortly after the bomb attack, Iraqi troops said.
Several Iraqi soldiers broke down in tears outside the clinic, as dozens of others hurriedly piled into pickup trucks with heavy weaponry and set out to the villages where insurgents were believed to be hiding.
The deaths came just two days after another roadside bomb killed two other soldiers on patrol before dawn on Saturday before the polls opened.
Soldiers say the attacks on Iraqi army troops last week came after several months when attacks on the local troops were rare.
One Iraqi leader said the casualties would not discourage the roughly 1,000 Iraqi troops station here.
“It was very hard. These last couple of days were crazy. But, finally, we will win,” said Capt. Wahab Ali, assistant operations officer for the Iraqi battalion.
“Our guys were killed and wounded on a special day, not a normal day, but a historic day when we had a vote to decide the future of Iraq,” he said.