View Full Version : Twenty-two from 3rd Radio Battalion return from Iraq

07-23-04, 07:01 AM
Twenty-two from 3rd Radio Battalion return from Iraq

Submitted by: Marine Forces Pacific
Story Identification #: 200472220150
Story by Lance Cpl. Bernadette L. Ainsworth

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay (July 21, 2004) -- Twenty-two Marines from 3rd Radio Battalion returned home July 11, from a five-month deployment to Iraq.

Based near Fallujah, 3rd Radio Battalion's mission was to provide communications support and to conduct electronic warfare.

While in Iraq, 3rd Radio Battalion didn't see any direct combat, but they did experience indirect fire.

"There were days when the day would drag on and at night when you thought everything was normal, we would get hit with indirect fire. Usually rockets and mortars," said Staff Sgt. Charles J. Willson, motor transport maintenance chief, 3rd Radio Battalion.

Although Willson left his pregnant wife and two children behind, he didn't let that keep him from accomplishing his mission while in Iraq.

"You have to concentrate on your job so others can do their job," he said. "You can't get distracted because then you won't be able to fulfill your mission."

With the support of a family, Willson said it made things easier.

"We're proud of what he does, that he's chosen to be a Marine and serve his country," said Kris Willson, his wife.

While he's happy to be home, Willson conveys a little sadness. "I'm sad to leave Iraq because I still have Marines out there, but I'm happy to be home with my family."

The remaining Marines of the forward deployed 3rd Radio Battalion are scheduled to return home in September.



07-23-04, 07:01 AM
Marines provide for local community and themselves
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20047195411
Story by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq (July 16, 2004) -- Local Iraqis working on the camp here are not just keeping up with the daily chores, but also earning a consistent wage that's a scarcity to most.

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, enjoy showers and electricity because of the daily work of the Iraqis on the camp through local contracts. But Iraqis are benefiting too. They have steady employment and competitive wage for Iraq.

"We've put $750,000 into the local community for the contracts here so far. Because of that we have port-a-johns, showers, power, air conditioning and everything the Marines here enjoy," said 1st Lt. James A. Rivers, a 27-year-old supply officer from Chester, S.C. "The contractors provide both quality of life and survivability to the Marines here."

On any given day Marines can see large tractors and forklifts moving things around the base. Behind the wheel is usually a local Iraqi. Every day they are on the base improving the living conditions and maintaining things Marines already enjoy.

"We'd be living with a lot more health hazards if they weren't here," Rivers said.

Working with the Iraqis does present challenges to the Marines here. Besides the obvious language barrier, there is also a different cultural mindset about work.

"It's hard to get them to come to work from eight in the morning until five at night. They like to come in at nine and work until three," said Sgt. Chris R. Bentley, a 23-year-old logistics embarkation specialist from Tyler, Texas. "Once we get past the problems with language and work ethic it's easy to develop friendships with the guys we see every day."

Bentley went on to say that many Iraqis will gladly work extra hours or do work that has nothing to do with their contract because of the friendships made. In exchange for the work the Marines are sure to repay the laborers.

"If we need something done right away and it takes them all night to do it then we give them a day off or some extra pay," Bentley said. "But most of the time when they go above and beyond for us we do things like make sure their pay is on time and correct and treat them as well as we can."

Bentley also credited the Iraqis for learning new skills. Job training or vocational schools are nonexistent here, so any specialty skill requires Marines to demonstrate and supervise.

"Back in the states, our heavy equipment operators have licenses and certifications," Bentley said. "They don't have anything like that here, so we have to manage them to make sure the work gets done to the quality we expect."

The work is welcome among the Iraqis, however. The pay in U.S. dollars is the same that someone in the United States would make for the same job. This fuels the people to work and boosts the economy.

"We had this guy named Joseph who did regular work for us. When he first came to work here he was dressed pretty shabby. You could tell he was poor," Bentley said. "After a while he started showing up with dentures to replace his teeth, newer clothes; you could tell he was doing a lot better because of what we were paying him."

Local contractors are happy to help the Marines as well. In addition to providing for their families, many also feel they are doing their part to rebuild their country's economy.

"I think the Coalition Forces are the best for changing the system. All my workers enjoy having their jobs and providing for their families," said one contract foreman, on the condition of anonymity. "Security is sometimes an issue but we take many precautions. We're just happy to be helping to rebuild."


An Iraqi contractor guides a one megawatt generator into place. Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., rely on contractors for everything from electricity to the showers they use to keep clean. They have paid $750,000 to contractors in exchange for quality of life items for their Marines.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes) Photo by: Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes



07-23-04, 07:02 AM
Now American Soldiers Can Safely Drink Their Own Urine

By Nicholas Wapshott, in New York

AMERICAN special forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have been issued with a revolutionary plastic pouch which filters contaminated water, even urine, so that it becomes pure and drinkable.

A similar bag to purify salt water is being developed for the US Navy and will eventually become standard equipment in every lifeboat.

The HydroPack, tested for the past two years by US special forces and Rangers, provides a ready supply of clean water to drink or mix with dried chicken and rice, drastically reducing the weight each soldier has to carry.

"I can literally take water from a septic tank or a toilet, place it in the bag, and about two hours later have one litre of best quality water, complete with electrolytes and sugar," said Gerald Darsch, director of the US Defence Department's Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD), based at the US Army Soldier Systems Centre in Natick, Massachusetts.

"How about a drink?" asked Mr Darsch, holding up a HydroPack pouch full of dirty water, sticks and floating debris. "It's pond scum. I just collected it myself."

Soldiers testing the HydroPack found they could reduce the weight of their daily supply of meals, previously weighing 3.5kg (7.7lb), to just 400g (13oz).

"Anything that can cut that weight down is literally a lifesaver," Mr Darsch said. "Water weighs a ton and these guys are already carrying almost 100lb on their backs."

The plastic bag filters 99.9 per cent of microbes and toxic chemicals from the dirty water. Although it can be used to treat urine over the short term, soldiers could suffer from urea poisoning if urine was their only source of water for extended periods.

"The bag works by forward osmosis," Andre Senecal, of the CFD, told The Times. "We put salts, sugars and some amino acids on one side of a membrane and contaminated water on the other. After a while the water starts seeping through.

"Depending on the soldier's motion and the temperature, which promotes the reaction, it takes from an hour to four hours to produce a litre of clean water."

The bags, made by Hydration Technology of Albany, Oregon, have been specially adapted for the military to make them easier to use.

"We have redesigned the bag, replacing the stopper at the top, such as the one found in an air mattress, with a zipper so that a soldier can fill it quickly, pop it in his rucksack and be on his way," Dr Senecal said.


07-23-04, 07:03 AM
Our Warriors' Spirit

By his patient, sympathetic labors with the men, day in, day out, and through many a night, every chaplain I know contributed immeasurably to the moral courage of our fighting men. None of the effort appears in the statistics. Most of it was necessarily secret between pastor and his confidant. It is for that toil in the cause both of God and country that I honor the Chaplain most."

-Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN May 1946

"They don't give a damn whom they shoot, do they, Chaplain?"

-Gen Lemuel C. Shepherd, USMC While visiting Chaplain Connie Griffin, who had just been wounded during the Korean War

Somewhere in Iraq, Marines attempt to sleep in a crowded room inside a building in the middle of a field. Earlier in the day the building had been mortared. With walls on only two sides, the elements invade: biting sand fleas, heat and a tempestuous sandstorm. Sleep is hard to come by. At 2:30 a.m., a young Marine coming off watch leans over the wakeful chaplain and asks if he would pray for his grandmother, who had just died. Prayer is one comfort the Marines have in plentiful supply thanks to the devoted chaplains who tirelessly care for Marines and their spiritual needs wherever and whenever they arise.

Currently, 263 Navy chaplains serve with the Marine Corps around the world. They are celebrating Mass from the back of a humvee at Camp Habbaniyah, Iraq; preaching under a mango tree in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; coordinating a reunion brief for families at Twentynine Palms, Calif.; counseling Marines aboard an amphibious ship on deployment; and praying with the wounded Marines who have returned to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Ask them about their ministry with Marines, and they smile and begin to describe what it is about Marines that feeds a chaplain's heart.

Some chaplains say it's Marines' discipline, their selflessness, their bravery. Others remark about their bonds with each other, their brotherhood. Another comment singles out the optimism and sense of humor Marines have even when faced with hardship. Assessing Marines' humility, Commander Bill D. Devine, chaplain for First Marine Division, said Marines "stand tall before others, but humble before God."

From the academic environment of the Naval Chaplains School in Newport, R.I., comes an erudite explanation: "The Marine Corps has an intense spirituality about itself, and it's deep within its [warrior] ethos. They are very aware of that and take it seriously. So with the Marine Corps, it is very easy [for the chaplain] to touch that spiritual side of self." That explanation comes from a man who has experienced life as both a Marine and a chaplain, CDR Michael W. Langston, Advanced Course training officer.

Maybe it's simply because "Marines love their chaplains," as a chaplain serving with Marines in Iraq writes in an e-mail. No matter how it is described, the relationship between Marines and chaplains is clearly a special bond that strengthens those who serve in the Marine Corps.

Called to Serve

"A spiritually fit sailor or Marine is our job, and we take it very seriously," said Rear Admiral Robert F. Burt, the 15th Chaplain of the Marine Corps. After enlisting in the Navy in 1970 and seeing the impact a chaplain made on the sailors serving in an aircraft carrier, RDML Burt decided to earn his divinity degree, and now, 34 years later, has the responsibility of leading chaplains who serve with Marines.

"Marines are special," he said. And with the Marines' high priority on fitness, education and training, being a chaplain requires an incredible commitment to discipline. RDML Burt explained that chaplains must be flexible, inspirational and motivational in order to foster trust and respect. "There is no door on the ship the chaplain should not be able to open."

Many chaplains identify a certain moment in their life when they felt a calling to join the Navy's Chaplain Corps. Lieutenant Commander William "Dan" Stallard likens it to the prophetic calling of Isaiah who, while grieving the death of King Uzziah, is asked by the Lord, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" and Isaiah responds, "Here am I. Send me."

In fact, the seal of the Navy Chaplain Corps includes a banner with the words Vocati Ad Servitium, or "Called to Serve." For those who are called, the journey is, in some ways, quite different from the civilian version of religious calling.

Those who answer the call are willing to accept the rigors of military life. Chaplains live and work where the Marines do, which enables them to share some very unique activities, such as eating MREs (meals, ready to eat), running with Marines during PT or physical training, going out on hikes shouldering a heavy backpack, and sleeping outside in every conceivable kind of weather. In Iraq, chaplains travel by various modes to administer the sacraments or counsel Marines: a humvee armed with a .50-caliber machine gun, a 7-ton truck lined with sandbags, or what is affectionately called the "holy helo."

While noncombatants, the chaplains nevertheless lead a dangerous life as they minister to those in operational environments. Just as Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno, USN, Chaplain Corps, sacrificed his life ministering to Marines during the Vietnam War in September 1967, chaplains today understand and accept that death may be the result of their dedication. For his actions, LT Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Chaplains interact in a very pluralistic religious environment. The military supports members of many faith groups. Consequently, the Chaplain Corps consists of clergy from many religions. Chaplains welcome this interaction between faiths. "The whole sense of cooperative ministry takes people out of that parochial mindset and turns them into chaplains. It deepens your faith," asserted CDR Michael E. Dory from the Naval Chaplains School.

Chaplains would be unable to meet the needs of many faith groups without the help of a special group of people called religious program specialists (RPs). Religious Program Specialist First Class Randall W. Hoffman of the Naval Chaplains School said RPs perform most of the administrative, management and supply tasks necessary to serve persons of all faiths. They receive considerable training in recognizing the spiritual needs, holidays, dietary needs and burial rites of various religions. Most importantly, as combatants, they are responsible for protecting chaplains so they can carry out their ministerial duties.

RP3 Edmond P. Garrett IV, the RP for CDR Devine, is responsible for transporting and setting up the altar for Mass in varied locations in Iraq. "We have done services in a broken-down train, palaces, schools, anywhere there are Marines. We have even done services while the Marines on the roof of the building were engaged in a firefight," Garrett explained.

Chaplains in Training

For the men and women who serve in the Chaplain Corps, the job is challenging, and the training is rigorous. Those called to serve must first complete a post-baccalaureate graduate degree in theological studies, meet their respective faith group's ecclesiastical endorsement requirements and complete the Naval Chaplains Basic Training at the Naval Chaplains School in Newport.

The program aims to educate and train new chaplains and chaplain candidates to be junior naval officers and chaplains in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. LCDR Stallard said the students are schooled in both the military and ministerial side of being a chaplain through four courses: the Naval Chaplain Basic Course, the Division Officer Capstone, the Amphibious/Expeditionary Course and the TEAMS (Tools, Empowerment and Ministry Skills) Course. They learn leadership and survival skills, hone their professional skills as clergy, and explore moral and ethical foundations for ministry in the sea services.

Gunnery Sergeant Steven E. Collier, a former drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., is responsible for molding the chaplains into military professionals by the completion of the 10-week Basic Chaplain Training. He teaches the basics of military bearing, discipline, proper wearing of uniforms, salutes, drill and ceremony. Additionally, Collier coordinates the Amphibious Expeditionary Course wherein students learn about combat operations, convoy operations, mines, land navigation and nuclear, biological and chemical protective masks. The students also go on numerous conditioning hikes and participate in courses for endurance and leadership.

After studying the challenges of combat in Iraq, GySgt Collier added to the curriculum sleep and food deprivation, and training about the deadly improvised explosive devices. This training is crucial, as more than half the students from the winter class went to Iraq. A recent class recognized Collier's impact when they created their motto: "Gunny trained, God approved."

Prepared for Battle: Body and Spirit

The Marine Corps also offers a 17-day program at Camp Lejeune, N.C., for chaplains who will serve with the operating forces. CREST, the Chaplain and Religious Program Specialist Expeditionary Skills Training, further encompasses field skills, combat ministry and Marine Corps orientation.

When LT Brian D. Weigelt attended CREST in 2003 as a Navy reservist, he learned about land navigation, patrolling, mass casualty ministry, field worship and surviving in the field. Weigelt said the course gave him "the most practical knowledge and training in relation to working with the Marine Corps" and confirmed for him that it was time to volunteer for active duty.


07-23-04, 07:04 AM
In January 2004, Weigelt began his first tour of duty. By mid-February his unit, 2d Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, left for Iraq. From a battlefield perspective, he said although schooling was important, "The time I spent in Parish Ministry probably best prepared me for the actual ministry-relating to people in crisis situations, learning how to help them through the long haul." Crisis situations abound in warfare, especially with the Marines of 2/4, a unit that suffered 21 killed and 130 wounded in a three-month time frame in Iraq.

All the chaplains serving in combat operations respond to Marines' questions about life and death. Marines struggle with the moral issues of war, and many question how the sentiments of war can coexist with their religious faith.

The question of war and religion is close to former "recon" Marine and chaplain CDR Jeffrey H. Seiler's heart, as both of his sons are serving their country. Benjamin J. Seiler is a Marine veteran currently serving with the North Carolina National Guard in northern Iraq. His brother, Erik P. Seiler, serves with 3d Bn, 8th Marines and just returned from Haiti. CDR Seiler said it is important to tell Marines "that they are honoring themselves, their families, the Corps and their country by serving. They are not violating their relationship with God, but rather are sacrificing for others so they may live free and without fear, and that God is with them."

Chaplains, Commanders and Marines

From day one in Chaplains School, chaplains learn that the religious program belongs to the commanding officer of the unit. Most commanders realize the vital contributions a chaplain makes to the morale of his Marines, and they entrust chaplains to monitor the spiritual pulse of the men and women in the command.

Ideally, Marines will feel free to confide in their chaplain and the chaplain can communicate general concerns to the commander. Since the chaplain is not in the chain of command and is required to maintain confidentiality with the Marines, he or she is often privy to the emotions and issues of the troops.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom I, Father Devine served as chaplain for Regimental Combat Team 7, a unit consisting of more than 6,300 Marines and 500 British soldiers. Their commander, Colonel Steven Hummer, remarked that Devine's "battlefield circulation was incredible" as he talked to Marines, held Mass and traveled to the component parts of the RCT. Devine said the commander facilitates his mission by giving him resources and the freedom to move with the troops. This accessibility enabled Fr. Devine to "take a barometer reading of attitude, morale, understanding and focus"-all of which are important to a commander.

Chaplains learn that the most effective way to make that Marine connection is through what they call a "ministry of presence" in which a chaplain is present everywhere, from the chow hall to PT, from the squad bay to the firing range. All the while, the chaplain sows the seeds of trust. Through familiarity, eventually the Marines welcome the chaplain, sharing their thoughts and the events of their lives.

On the Homefront

CDR Devine said the Marines often talk about their families. The snapshots they show him of wives, children or girlfriends often have become worn, torn and sweat-streaked from being carried in a pocket or a helmet. Some Marines use the Bible their grandfather had in World War II or their father carried in Vietnam. Family ties offer strength, hope and rejuvenation. But concern for a family's welfare back home can be difficult because the Marine can do little to solve problems from afar.

Fortunately, chaplains on Marine bases minister to the families who await their return. During OIF I, Captain John S. Lineback, USN, Chaplain Corps, headed up efforts to support the families of RCT-7 at Twentynine Palms. Chaplains are an important pillar of support for the Key Volunteer program, a spousal information network that offers unit news, relief agency information and moral support during a deployment. Key Volunteer advisor Sheri Hummer described Chaplain Lineback as a "tremendous asset" to the program by providing family counseling, attending unit get-togethers and Key Volunteer meetings, presenting a program to the Key Volunteer senior leadership that provided care to the caregivers, and conducting a reunion brief to prepare spouses for the Marines' return.

CAPT Lineback also visited wounded Marines, talked to school personnel in schools that had students whose brothers had died, and performed memorial services. The challenge of supporting the families, according to Lineback, usually is "not the individual hills one climbs, but the cumulative effect of everything. Things just add up." He added, "Sometimes we remember the times we spend holding the hand of a dying or injured Marine or consoling a distraught spouse as a significant event. But those aren't the greatest challenges; those are sacred events, and we are blessed to be in those sacred places and to take off our shoes on holy ground."

The Faithful

What makes a good chaplain? Chaplains respond: caring, trust, presence, listening ears, and a deep love for our country, our God, and the people he has called. All chaplains know, however, that without faith, none of the other skills really matter. "It all begins with faith, first and foremost," said CDR Devine. "Faith bolsters, reinforces a Marine's soul and gives meaning to his life."

Every chaplain mentioned the importance of maintaining his own daily personal spiritual discipline so he could minister to others. RDML Burt cited prayer as the critical source of inspiration for chaplains, explaining in terms of his own Christian framework that even Jesus had to "withdraw, go pray, energize." After all, RDML Burt said, "Faith is an everyday event."


07-23-04, 07:04 AM

Former Army General Sounds Off

Four Star General Keane delivers the same message we at SFTT.ORG have been shouting for the last 15 months. Will America ever wake up? - Hack

WASHINGTON U.S. war planners failed to prepare for the insurgency that arose after major combat operations in Iraq because they were “seduced by Iraqi exiles” who predicted a joyous reception for U.S. troops, one of the Army’s senior architects of the campaign said Thursday.

In testimony Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. Jack Keane, who retired last fall after a final posting as acting Army chief of staff, offered an unusually frank account of mistakes made in planning for the Iraq war.

When I look back on it myself, having participated and contributed to [the war planning], one of the things that happened to us is many of us got seduced by the Iraqi exiles in terms of what the outcome would be after the war, Keane said.

“We’re all going to be treated as liberators,” interjected Rep. Ike Skelton, the committee’s ranking minority member.

“That’s correct,” Keane replied. “So therefore the intellectual capital to prepare ourselves properly for an insurgency was not there.”

Keane said that despite continued violence against U.S. troops, U.S. military leaders “did not recognize that we were dealing with an insurgency [in Iraq] until midsummer” 2003.

This recognition came only after “lawlessness and looting in May, targeted violence against us in June that doubled in July, doubled in August, increased again in September and steady-stated thereafter,” the retired general said.

Keane did not criticize operations in war on Wednesday. But he was frank in his assessment of what he said was lack of planning for the war’s aftermath.

“There were very few people who actually envisioned, honestly, before the war what we are dealing with now after the regime went down,” Keane said.

“We did not see [the insurgency] coming, and we were not properly prepared to deal with it.”

Keane offered insight into what military planners were thinking as they prepared for the Iraq campaign.

“The conventional wisdom was that we would have a stability operation that would be more akin to what we were doing in Kosovo, but on a larger scale,” Keane said. “And we would be very much involved in political and physical reconstruction, and maybe some law and order, in the absence of a competent police.”

Keane said that the widespread looting and lawlessness that occurred immediately after the fall of Baghdad “went on for a shorter period of time than people advertised,” but that “it did get away from us for about a week” in part because the Rules of Engagement that U.S. troops were operating under “did not change quickly enough” for the new situation.

But the “much more serious problem,” Keane said, “was being organized improperly to deal with an insurgency.”

Keane credited Army commanders on the ground last year as being “quality leaders” who proved to be “enormously flexible and adaptable” in reorganizing and equipping themselves to deal with the unexpected revolt.

“But we could have done far better for them if we had properly prepared for the reality,” Keane said.

Skelton said that he did “not want to belabor the point, but there were a lot of young folks who paid the price for that lack of foresight.”

“Yes, sir,” Keane replied.

Keane replaced Gen. Eric Shinseki as acting Army chief of staff after Shinseki retired in June 2003.

Shinseki is believed to have been forced out by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the Army leader told Congress that pacifying Iraq after the war would require “hundreds of thousands” of troops, rather than the smaller force Rumsfeld and other civilian Pentagon officials advocated.

Rumsfeld asked Keane to take the top job permanently, but the four-star declined for “family reasons,” according to Pentagon officials at the time. Keane retired in the fall. He was succeeded as Army chief of staff by Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who returned from retirement to take the job.



07-23-04, 08:05 AM
U.S. Forces Attack Insurgents in Fallujah

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. forces launched a "precision attack" Friday morning against a suspected gathering of insurgents outside a house in the volatile city of Fallujah, the U.S. military said.

The attack did not kill anyone, but wounded five civilians, including three children, said Dr. Kamal Al-Ani, a local hospital official. The U.S. military did not indicate if there were any casualties. Witnesses denied the house was harboring militants.

Also Friday, the military announced the deaths of two U.S. soldiers in a roadside bomb attack Thursday near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. A third soldier was wounded in the explosion.

The 6:30 a.m. attack in Fallujah, like several other recent strikes there, was conducted in coordination with the Iraqi government, the military said in a statement. It targeted between 10 and 12 terrorists linked to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the military said.

Al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for a series of car bombings and beheadings of foreigners in Iraq (news - web sites) over the last several months.

"The anti-Iraqi forces were struck while in the courtyard of a house; the house was left intact," the statement said.

Al-Ani, the Fallujah doctor, said a U.S. warplane fired a missile that landed in the garden of a house in the Jubail neighborhood, in southern Fallujah. Associated Press Television News footage showed a massive crater beside the house.

"We were sleeping in the morning when a U.S. missile hit our house," Saddam Jassim, the home's owner, said as he and his brother cleared debris.

"We have nothing to do with the resistance or al-Zarqawi. These are pretexts used by the U.S. military to terrorize the people in Fallujah because U.S. soldiers are unable to face the insurgents," he said.

Marines pulled back from Fallujah — a focal point of resistance to the U.S. occupation — after besieging it for three weeks in April. Since then, the U.S. military has been limited to using missiles attacks and airstrikes to hit potential targets there.

A van carrying Iraqi civilians, meanwhile, collided with a U.S. tank near Baghdad, killing nine people and injuring 10, the U.S. military said Friday.

The accident occurred about 10 p.m. Thursday when the van was trying to pass another vehicle and collided with the tank, said Spc. Justin McCue, a press official of the U.S.-led military coalition, adding that there were no U.S. or coalition casualties.

Iraqis gave a slightly different account of the crash.

Iraqi police Capt. Adnan Salih said nine people were killed and 18 injured when the tank collided with the vehicle in Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad.

The dead included four men, four women and one child — all of whom attended a wedding party in Tarmiyah, Salih said.

The strike Friday was the seventh in little more than a month. The military claimed the attacks "have eroded Zarqawis base of support and ability to carry out terror attacks against security forces and the people of Iraq."

A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Samarra roadside bombing occurred at 6:30 p.m. Thursday south of the city. Samarra was the scene of battles earlier this week that left four Iraqis dead and five wounded, a hospital official said.

The violence took the U.S. death toll in Iraq since the beginning of the war to 902, according to an Associated Press count. Iraq has been wracked by a 15-month-old insurgency that has used car bombings, sabotage, kidnappings and other violence to try to drive out coalition forces and hamper reconstruction efforts.

A bus driver and eight passengers — including a pregnant woman and two children — were wounded Friday in a roadside bomb blast in Baghdad's northern suburb of Toubechi, said police Lt. Rajab Saleh. Saleh said the bus driver had ignored police warnings not to enter the area, which had been cordoned off.

On Thursday, Beiji police official Taha Abdullah said police had found a decapitated body in an orange jumpsuit and a head in a bag on the banks of the Tigris River, prompting fears that a second Bulgarian hostage had been killed.

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien on Friday confirmed the discovery, saying police had discovered the decapitated body and that its "head had been placed in a backpack type bag and tied off to the back of the body." Police later took the body to a hospital in Tikrit, he added.

The deepening hostage crises across Iraq led Kenya, facing an ultimatum by militants to behead three of its citizens in captivity, to tell its people Thursday to leave Iraq. The kidnappings have further complicated Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's efforts to persuade reluctant nations to join the U.S.-led coalition and send troops here.

Allawi asked Egypt, which also has a citizen threatened with decapitation in Iraq, "to talk to some Arab and Islamic leaders to send forces to protect" a U.N. mission in the country, he told reporters in Cairo. But an official in the Egyptian president's office said Egypt would send troops only if other Arabs do so first. On Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said: "Egypt will not send forces in any case."

The decapitated body was found Wednesday in Beiji, a town north of Baghdad, Abdullah said.

Bulgarian officials were investigating whether the remains were those of a man from that country identified as Ivaylo Kepov, 32, one of two Bulgarians who were kidnapped June 29 near the northern city of Mosul.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said another headless body found in the Tigris on July 14 was identified as the other hostage — Bulgarian truck driver Georgi Lazov, 30.

A group affiliated with al-Zarqawi said it kidnapped the Bulgarians and demanded Iraqi detainees be released in exchange for their lives. The group later sent a tape to Al-Jazeera television that reportedly showed Lazov being killed.

Another group, calling itself The Holders of the Black Banners, announced Wednesday it had abducted two Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian, and said it would behead a captive every 72 hours beginning Saturday night if their trucking company did not agree to stop doing business here and their countries did not agree to withdraw troops and citizens.

A video broadcast Thursday shows a third Kenyan, also working for the Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co., with the other six hostages.

In response to the abductions, KGL said it would take "all necessary measures" to save the lives of the hostages, but it stopped short of saying it would stop operating in Iraq.

Kenya, India and Egypt are not members of the 160,000-member, U.S.-led military coalition. But Kenya responded to the militants' demand Thursday by calling on it citizens to leave the country.

Many of the nearly 70 hostages taken hostage in Iraq in recent months are truck drivers, easy kidnap targets who haul cargo for private companies — work that is vital to normalizing Iraq's postwar economy.

Kenya's decision made it the latest nation to urge its people to leave Iraq, following similar calls by Egypt, Bulgaria and the Philippines.



07-23-04, 10:17 AM
Iraq vet's motorcycle is stolen

Chip Johnson

Even on his worst days in Iraq, like the day in April when shrapnel from an exploding armored personnel carrier lodged in the back of his leg, or the day in June when he was nearly killed by a roadside bomb, U.S. Marine Cpl. Korey Calloway was comforted by the memories of home.

"When I was in Fallujah, I thought about going home, how great America is and how when I got home I wouldn't have to worry about the bad things,'' he said.

Little did he know, the Union City man had at least one more "bad thing'' to endure.

Within a week of his homecoming, a cowardly thief stole Calloway's pride and joy -- a blue 2003 Yamaha R1 motorcycle. It was stolen right outside his home shortly before 4 a.m. on July 6.

"We thought he'd been through the worst,'' said his mother, Sharon. "Beyond his family and his own life, that bike was his passion. It was pretty much the second question he asked whenever he called home -- 'How are you? Are you taking care of my bike? Starting it like you said you would?' "

Calloway, 21, earned a ticket home -- and his second Purple Heart -- on June 3 when a roadside bomb exploded about five feet away from him. The blast put a hole through his right arm, opened the left side of his body to the bone and left a deep 8-inch gash in his leg.

"I was bleeding out, but there was another platoon close by, and they saved my life,'' he said.

After stays at a field hospital in Fallujah and naval hospitals in Germany, Maryland and San Diego, Calloway arrived in Union City on June 28, happy to be home even though he'd lost feeling in two fingers on his right hand.

The motorcycle was more than Calloway's personal "crotch rocket.'' It represented the freedom of home and good times with friends at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, where he was stationed before going to Camp Pendleton, N.C., for training ahead of his shipping out for Iraq.

"I trained most of the time, but when I was done I'd hop on and take a ride,'' he said. "It was relaxing to me after a day of work.''

He saved for more than two years to buy the bike, which cost about $10, 000. It wasn't insured against theft.

The loss of the motorcycle was so unexpected that it shocked him more than a surprise attack by armed fighters.

"I was in disbelief,'' he said. "I don't sleep so good at night anyway, so I'd just gone out and seen it an hour before. It was my biggest concern.''

He has reported the loss, and family members have done all they could to lift his spirits, but the theft left a sour taste and spoiled his homecoming celebration. The night it was stolen, he was shaking with anger, said his mom.

"It frightened him," she said. "He was prepared for Fallujah, but he wasn't prepared for this.''

To understand Calloway's frustration, it's important to understand what he endured in Iraq and how his family -- and his bike -- gave him something to look forward to, often in his darkest hour.

In early April, Calloway was wounded when insurgents fired as many as 10 rocket propelled grenades at his armored personnel carrier. He and about 15 Marines got away before it exploded, but Calloway caught some shrapnel in the back of the leg -- and that wasn't the worst of it.

The Marines Calloway was with were separated from the rest of the patrol and soon surrounded by insurgents, who seemed to appear from every portal.

"That was a bad day,'' he said. "We got separated and lost in Fallujah, we got surrounded by hundreds of fighters, and we were running out of ammunition. It took two companies, close air support and four tanks to get us outta there.''

In between the two explosions that will likely end Calloway's infantry career, he's fired on suicide bombers hurtling down the street with C-4 explosives, grenades and other munitions strapped to their bodies. He's also learned some facts of the war that noncombatants can only speculate about.

"We have two different ways of life, and they conflict with each other,'' he said of the Islamic world. "Most of the people we were fighting weren't even Iraqi. They dressed different. They acted different.''

"I'm happy that I served, got a chance to help bring my friends back, and I feel like I was doing the right thing there, it just wasn't working," he said. "We were supposed to support and stabilize the country, but it turned into a continuous firefight. Snipers during the day and RPG's and mortars every night.''

It's no wonder that, after surviving a place best described as 10 blocks south of hell, Calloway expected to find some peace and security when he got back home.

Goodness knows he's earned it.

Already his dreams of becoming an FBI agent may be over, and Calloway won't know if his hand can be repaired until he visits the doctor in mid- August.

To have the motorcycle stolen on top of it all? Sheesh.

"It was more the insult than anything else," he said, "and it made me as mad as any day of combat in Fallujah -- and just as frustrating, because there was nothing I could do about it.''

Somebody, perhaps all of us, owes Cpl. Korey Calloway, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, a new motorcycle, and it doesn't mater if the money comes from supporters of President Bush or filmmaker Michael Moore.

The truth of the matter is all of us -- me, you, George and Michael -- owe Calloway and his cohorts all the help we can muster, no matter which side of the Iraqi debacle you stand on.

E-mail Chip Johnson at chjohnson@sfchronicle.com or write him at 483 Ninth St. Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94607.



07-23-04, 11:55 AM
Issue Date: July 26, 2004

Leathernecks turn up the heat before dawn
Marines hunt insurgents in night raids

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

RAMADI, Iraq — After rolling out of their racks at their platoon sergeant’s call, the grunts of Weapons Company paused to smear green, brown and black paint on their faces. It was a new tradition for the unit — a small way for the grunts to psych themselves up for the hunt.
This night raid was the first since they lost a beloved squad leader, and the leathernecks of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, were spoiling for a fight.

A week earlier, on July 1, Sgt. Kenneth Conde Jr. was killed by an improvised explosive. And on this night, the Marines were readying for another foray from Camp Hurricane Point to raid three homes suspected of harboring insurgents.

These night raids are probably the sexiest, most aggressive missions the Marines here are handling at this point in their seven-month tour of occupation duty. The raids are a sharp contrast to the fighting they saw just weeks after arriving in March.

At the outset, 2/4 swept the town for insurgents and saw some intense urban combat. But with the turnover of power to the interim Iraqi government, the Marines have toned things down.

Still, the hunt for insurgent forces continues. Acting on intelligence received from Iraqi and other sources, Marines from 2/4 are conducting dozens of these pinpoint raids.

Iraqi police are handling more and more of the minor criminals, leaving the Marines to focus on bigger targets — insurgents ranging from low-level lackeys who conduct attacks to higher-level organizers. The bigger fish are former Republican Guard members, former members of the Baath Party, or militants from the group Ansar al-Islam, which has ties to al-Qaida.

If the intelligence is hot enough, units sometimes raid in broad daylight — a risky proposition. Staff Sgt. Sau Moana, with 2/4’s Echo Company, ran a recent daylight raid near a busy Ramadi market and worried about the number of Iraqis on the street.

“The crowd can become a mob real quick,” he said.

Nighttime missions are preferred because the streets are quiet. The Iraqi police enforce a curfew that begins about 11 p.m. and runs until 4 a.m., an ideal time for Marines to slip into town virtually unnoticed, conduct their mission, and roll back to base.

On this night, Weapons Company planned to hit three targets simultaneously.

‘A good night’

Arriving at one well-maintained home surrounded by a cement wall, the Marines hop out of their Humvees. With the aid of Army special forces units, they breach the front door.

The troops don’t find their target, however, and instead stumble upon three women of varying ages and several children, including an infant, asleep on thin mattresses on the floor. The troops speak to the women through a translator, then search the house for weapons, cash or documentation that could implicate those who live there.

As Marines stand watch outside, other leathernecks look through dresser drawers, under beds and in closets.

The woman of the house explains that one man the Marines are seeking left three months ago and another thought to be staying at the house left the city the day before. The squad leader radios that information back to the base.

The woman insists the men are good, that they’re not criminals. The Marines aren’t convinced the woman is telling the truth, but decide to leave anyway, putting the family’s home back in order before departing empty-handed.

But raids like this get Pfc. Joseph Gentile’s blood pumping.

“I always wanted to be on SWAT teams,” said Gentile, a 21-year-old assaultman from Chicago.

Effective raids

Back at the combat operations center, battalion staff clad in PT shorts and spitting tobacco juice into plastic bottles monitor radio traffic and wait for the word. One squad struck out, but the night’s work yields 10 detainees, plus two of the principal targets.

“It was a good night,” said Maj. J.D. Harrill, 2nd Battalion’s operations officer.

Iraqis apprehended during raids are taken to another camp here to be interrogated by Army and Marine forces, and they may be held for a couple of weeks before a decision is made on keeping them longer.

Whether the troops get their man, the raids are an effective way to keep the insurgency guessing, potentially making this city less and less hospitable for those who would stir up trouble.

“So even if you don’t succeed, you do succeed,” Harrill said.



07-23-04, 01:25 PM
Honolulu Advertiser
July 23, 2004
Marines recall their time in Iraq
By William Cole
Just back from about two of the worst places to be in Iraq - Fallujah and
Ramadi - three 3rd Radio Battalion Marines said yesterday that progress is
being made but security remains tenuous.
Gunnery Sgt. Richard Taylor, Staff Sgt. Charles Willson and Sgt. Gary
Cisneros are among 22 of the Hawai'i-based Marines who have returned to
Another 140 of the Marines, who specialize in electronic warfare, are
expected home in September. Last year, 250 of the radio battalion Marines
deployed to Kuwait and Iraq.
"I think, obviously, we still have some security issues," said Taylor, 31,
who spent most of his five months at Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi, and the
last week and a half in Fallujah before arriving in Hawai'i on July 11.
"(Iraq) is a very young nation, so to speak, and I think every step forward
means some of the lateral steps that we're being forced to take."
At both Blue Diamond and Camp Fallujah rocket and mortar attacks were
Both cities are west of Baghdad in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" of
greatest resistance to the U.S. presence. Radio battalion Marines also are
at smaller "forward operating bases" in the region.
Several thousand Marines fought Iraqis in the streets of Fallujah in April
after four American contractors were ambushed, killed and their bodies
dragged through the streets.
A large portion of American deaths since June 28 have occurred in Anbar
province, which includes Ramadi and Fallujah. At least 17 Marines and four
soldiers have died there.
News accounts for months focused on the fighting in Fallujah - to the
exclusion of progress elsewhere, some complained.
Taylor, who was stationed in Hawai'i with 3rd Radio Battalion for 2 1/2
years, went to California with the unit, and returned here to deploy, said
Fallujah's reputation for insurgency is a deserved one.
"For years it had been a stronghold for the bad guys. Sometimes Saddam
wouldn't send his own forces in there," he said. "It was bad. It's hard to
get a big overhead view because it wasn't just Fallujah, it was happening in
Ramadi and Najaf and some of the outlying areas."
The focus was on that one area "because that was probably where the most
intense fighting was going on," said Taylor, who worked as a logistics
Despite the opposition, Taylor said "we made positive steps forward there
constantly, not only in the combat aspects, but also the rebuilding aspects,
where we're going out there and talking to the normal people and the people
who are running the government of Iraq. I think we're making great inroads
into letting them know - we're not the bad guys."
The California man, who is married and has 4- and 5-year- old sons, spent
most of his time in camp, but went out to see what other 3rd Radio Marines
were experiencing. The radio battalion Marines are told not to discuss the
missions they go on.
Staff Sgt. Willson, 27, who was at Camp Fallujah for six months, had close
calls: a roadside bomb blew up less than 300 feet from his convoy and a 120
mm rocket exploded about 150 feet away. He was not injured.
The only radio battalion Marine to be injured to date is Lance Cpl. Daniel
Powell, 22, who received a Purple Heart in June for shrapnel wounds received
in a mortar attack in May.
Rocket and mortar attacks on Camp Fallujah are sporadic, said Willson, who
was a motor transport maintenance chief. A stalemate of sorts has existed in
Fallujah since May when U.S. forces decided to pull back from the city.
Willson said he doesn't speculate on whether Fallujah, a city of 300,000,
will see more violence. "We don't see that level of stuff," he said. "We
just saw what was right in front of us. We didn't have time to think about
the politics. They'd tell us to go here, we'd go here. We didn't care why we
were doing it. It just had to be done."
Cisneros, 32, who works in signals analysis and communication support, now
has done two tours of Iraq. He deployed last year and traveled up to
The Tucson, Ariz., man said this time, it was more difficult to tell who the
enemies were.
Last year, "a lot of times, (the enemies) were too busy running away." This
time, "the people helping you during the day were the same people shooting
at you at night," he said. "It was more deadly this time than it was the
first time ... not knowing who the actual enemy is is more stressful."
The view of some Iraqis is "they don't want us occupying their country,"
Cisneros said. "But they can't do it by themselves. If we leave then other
countries will take advantage of them because they have nothing to defend
themselves with."
On the home front, Taylor's wife, Ingrid, said having two boys to take care
of and a full-time job in California helped time go by.
Around March and April, it got really scary when fighting in Ramadi was in
the news, she said.
"I e-mailed him to make sure everything was OK. We'd continue to get word
from the command saying that all of radio battalion was fine," she said. "I
did have the Web site that gave the fatalities and all the coalition
casualties and I checked it. We know a lot of Marines."
Her husband is glad to be past that - at least for the time being.
"It's surreal at times (being in Hawai'i)," Richard Taylor said. "My wife
and children and I are staying down at the Hale Koa (hotel) and it's on the
beach and it's so incredible to be back. You just stand there with a big
grin on your face."
Willson said it will take time to readjust.
"Once you get used to a place like Iraq and you come back, normal life ...
it takes some time," said the eight-year Marine. "Cars backfire or balloons
popping ... it takes me right back to Iraq."
He's not even thinking about the possibility of having to go back some day.
"If I have to go back, I have to go back. But in the meantime, that's in the
past, and I'm going to focus on taking care of my family and what I have to
do for the Marine Corps now."


07-23-04, 04:58 PM
Death Jesters of VMAQ-2 Deploy
Submitted by: MCAS Cherry Point
Story Identification #: 2004722105742
Story by Lance Cpl. Cullen Tiernan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (July 18, 2004) -- Pilots from Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron VMAQ-2 deployed July 18 to join the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

Marines and family members gathered together to say good-bye and watch the Death Jester pilots board EA-6B Prowlers and soar into the morning sun to help secure freedom for the Iraqi people.

"The mission is to provide force protection for the Marines on the ground. VMAQ-2's goal is to provide as much support for those Marines as we can," said Capt. Roderick D. Capili, the unit information officer at VMAQ-2.

All of the job tasking is set for VMAQ-2. "We have been preparing for this every since we got back from our first deployment to Iraq, and we plan on executing several types of missions with different emphasis on Prowler capabilities," said Capili.

Kelly E., wife of pilot Capt. Christopher E., said she will miss everything about her husband and best friend. “Deployments are hard, but my family is determined to make things work..”

“My husband has been preparing to face combat for over 14 years. He’s a Marine. I know he’s in one of the best squadrons and in a safe aircraft,” said Kelly.

Capili is optimistic about VMAQ-2’S second tour of duty in Iraq. "It's a good mix of Marines we have at VMAQ-2. We are combining the experience of many Marines throughout VMAQ-2, with green Marines who want some ribbons on their chests.”

(As requested by VMAQ-2, the last names of pilots and their families will be withheld for security purposes.)


Captain Robert S., an electronic countermeasures officer(ECMO) for VMAQ-2, gathers his wife, Charlotte, in his arms in attempts to comfort her as he says goodbye. Photo by: Lance Corporal Wil Acosta



07-23-04, 07:55 PM
Taming Fallujah
It'll require more than "martial law" and airstrikes.

Friday, July 9, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's new emergency powers are being greeted with harrumphs from so-called human rights advocates in the West. So the same people who opposed toppling Saddam Hussein are now upset with newly free Iraqis for trying to stop Saddam's remnants from reimposing his dictatorship. George Orwell, call your office.

Iraqis themselves, meanwhile, seem to be welcoming the move as a sign their newly sovereign government understands that its first responsibility is to improve security conditions, without which the promised elections will prove difficult to hold.

This is not dictatorial power, after all. The imposition of martial law and the like would require the agreement of other members of the interim government and would be limited to designated areas for limited periods of time. Suggestions that Iraq is already on the path back to authoritarian rule are silly, and are offered by cynical partisans who want Americans to believe that nothing good can happen there.

Even more encouraging was Mr. Allawi's readiness to take responsibility for Monday's airstrike at Islamic militants in Fallujah. He acknowledged without hesitation that Iraqi intelligence had been behind the attack. That shows a leader unafraid to make decisions that may be unpopular in some quarters of Iraqi society but which are obviously essential for the common good. We're hoping it also suggests a willingness to consider taking actual control of Fallujah with Iraqi and/or U.S. ground forces in the near future. Airstrikes are better than no strikes, but they risk civilian lives and cannot themselves defeat the insurgency.

The end-of-April deal that turned the city over to an ineffectual (at best) local security force known as the Fallujah Brigade may have been understandable in light of that month's surge in violence. Senior civilian officials have told us there was a real risk that negative publicity arising from the Marine siege of the city could have led to violent uprisings elsewhere in the Sunni Triangle.
But agreeing to even a centimeter of Iraqi soil where the writ of legitimate authority didn't run set a horrible precedent, and it's clear by now that we've left the new Iraqi government with a major problem. We've also learned that the cease-fire was demanded by political figures in Baghdad and Washington, not improvised by the Marine commanders on the scene as originally claimed.

"The 10 Marines that died--those were wasted lives because we didn't finish the job," one Marine sergeant was quoted in yesterday's New York Times. "Fallujah is a time bomb." Our own Robert Pollock found similar bitterness when he visited the Marines at Camp Fallujah several weeks ago. We disagree strongly that any American lives have been wasted, but such sentiment is understandable, especially because Marines have taken significant casualties in recent days from enemy forces that continue to operate in and around the city.

Even worse, from the point of view of Iraqi stability, is that the city continues to be a haven and staging area for the Zarqawi-led foreign terrorists who remain a threat to timely elections in Iraq. Car bombs, which all but stopped during the Marines' siege, are back in a big way. Iraqi and U.S. officials acknowledge that many of them originate in Fallujah and drive directly via the main highway into Baghdad.

For the time being, the new Iraqi counter-insurgency strategy appears to be divide and conquer. Lieutenant General Mohammed Latif, commander of the Fallujah Brigade, has been hoping that the local Baathists and foreign jihadis can be turned against each other. Mr. Allawi's discussion of amnesty for Baathist insurgents is aimed at the same end. But although the outreach may be paying some intelligence dividends, there is no evidence yet that Fallujah is on the road to becoming governable.

This is obviously unacceptable going forward. Mr. Allawi and his team have a month or so of honeymoon period to try forgiveness and finesse as a means of coaxing some insurgents to give up the fight. But if security does not improve, it won't be long before Iraqis start holding them responsible. Polls showed that the approval numbers for L. Paul Bremer and the old CPA fell in correlation with deteriorating security. There's every reason to believe an Iraqi-led government would suffer the same fate.
Iraq's sovereign government has to decide how best to handle Fallujah. But Washington could at least send the signal that, if asked to help, it will not flinch once again in the face of propaganda from al Jazeera.



07-23-04, 09:33 PM
Iraqi Militants Abduct Egyptian Diplomat

By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Militants kidnapped a senior Egyptian diplomat as he left a mosque Friday and demanded his country abandon any plans to send security experts to support Iraq (news - web sites)'s new government, according to a video broadcast on the Al-Jazeera television station.

Earlier Friday, U.S. forces launched a strike targeting 10 to 12 suspected terrorists linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant blamed for attacks against foreigners in Iraq. The suspects were in the courtyard of house in Fallujah, the U.S. command said. The military did not mention casualties, but a hospital official said five civilians were wounded, including three children.

The abduction of the Egyptian — the first foreign diplomat kidnapped in Iraq — threatened to undermine efforts of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (news - web sites) on Thursday to persuade Arab and Muslim countries to provide troops to protect the U.N. mission here.

A different militant group holding seven foreign truck drivers, including one Egyptian, announced new demands in a video, insisting that their Kuwaiti employer pay compensation for those killed by U.S. forces in the city of Fallujah. They have threatened to begin beheading the hostages starting Saturday.

The company, in Kuwait, told The Associated Press it was negotiating with the militants and that it was confident the hostages would be freed.

The beheading of hostages has stirred opposition in Iraq, with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who led a two-month uprising against U.S. forces beginning in April, joining the criticism.

"We condemn what some people are doing regarding the beheading of prisoners, and it is illegal according to Islamic law," al-Sadr said at the Kufa mosque south of Baghdad, where he led Friday prayers. "Anybody doing this is a criminal, and we will punish him according to Islamic law."

Al-Sadr's word carries weight with many in the country's Shiite majority but is essentially meaningless to the Sunni Muslims believed responsible for many of the kidnappings and killings.

Militants in recent months have kidnapped roughly 70 foreigners in their campaign to force countries to withdraw troops and to scare away contractors working on reconstruction projects. At least three hostages have been beheaded.

Many of those abducted have been truck drivers, but the capture of Mohammed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb, the Egyptian, signaled that insurgents are seeking more influential targets.

Only days earlier, Qutb had embraced freed Egyptian truck driver Alsayeid Mohammed Alsayeid Algarabawi, who was released by militants Monday.

An Egyptian diplomat in Baghdad, who declined to be identified, said Qutb was abducted Friday as he left a mosque. The black-clad militants, calling themselves "The Lions of Allah Brigade," claimed they abducted Qutb because Egypt said it was prepared to deploy security experts to help Iraq's interim government, according to Al-Jazeera. No specific threat against Qutb was mentioned.

Egypt has offered to train Iraqi police and security personnel in Egypt but declined to deploy military forces in Iraq.

In the video — narrated by a news reader — Qutb was seated in front of six masked men, some holding rifles. He said he was being treated well, adding that the Egyptian mission in Baghdad was not cooperating with the U.S.-led multinational force but only trying to aid Iraq's reconstruction.

While Egyptians have shown sympathy for countrymen who went to Iraq to work and ended up held hostage, the kidnapping of a diplomat was likely to focus public attention on their government's policies here. Many Egyptians and other Arabs extoll Iraqis fighting Allawi's U.S.-backed government as freedom fighters and accuse their own governments of siding with hated America against Arabs.

The crisis came amid a new surge in kidnappings.

A group calling itself "The Holders of the Black Banners" released videos Wednesday and Thursday saying it was holding three Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian and would behead one every 72 hours starting Saturday night if the Kuwaiti trucking company they work for did not stop doing business in Iraq and their countries did not withdraw their citizens.

In a new video broadcast on Al-Jazeera on Friday, the group added to its demands, calling for the release of all Iraqi detainees in Kuwaiti and U.S. prisons, and calling on the drivers' Kuwaiti employer to compensate relatives of people killed in Fallujah.

The new demands were almost certain to go unmet, but the tape Friday — also narrated by the news reader — did not appear to repeat the beheading threat and bore no other specified ultimatum. The militants gave the company a 48-hour deadline, but it was unclear that meant the initial deadline was extended until Sunday.

The men's employer, Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport, Co., said it was working to secure their release. "Negotiations are ongoing with the kidnappers ... and we are optimistic the kidnappers will release them soon," Rana Abu-Zaineh, the company's manpower planning manager, told AP by telephone.

She declined to say how the company was conducting negotiations or disclose what it was prepared to do to secure the hostages' release. Earlier in the week, the company said it would do whatever was necessary.

Iraq has been wracked by 15 months of car bombings, assassinations, sabotage, kidnappings and other violence aimed at driving out coalition forces and hampering reconstruction. In response, U.S. forces launched the strike in the volatile city of Fallujah early Friday targeting suspected terrorists linked to al-Zarqawi.

Kamal Al-Ani, a local hospital official, said the attack wounded five civilians, including three children. Witnesses denied the house was harboring militants.

"We have nothing to do with the resistance or al-Zarqawi. These are pretexts used by the U.S. military to terrorize the people in Fallujah because U.S. soldiers are unable to face the insurgents," said Saddam Jassim, the home's owner.

The military said the strike, like others in Fallujah, was conducted in coordination with the interim government. The military has been limited to such strikes since the Marines pulled back from Fallujah — a focal point of resistance to the U.S. occupation — after besieging it for three weeks in April.

The military claimed seven strikes in the city in roughly a month "have eroded Zarqawi's base of support and ability to carry out terror attacks."

Elsewhere Friday, one person was killed and nine people wounded — including a pregnant woman and two children — when a roadside bomb exploded a Baghdad suburb as a bus passed by, officials said.

Gunmen killed a retired Iraqi officer, Maj. Gen. Salim Majeed Blesh, 58, and his neighbor, Sami Noori, 68, as they headed for prayers in the northern city of Mosul, police said.

Blesh had run a Mosul employment office set up by the former U.S. occupation government; his killing appeared to be part of a wave of attacks against those working with U.S. forces.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed and one was wounded in a roadside bomb Thursday near Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad. The military announced that two collisions between armored vehicles and civilian vehicles killed 11 Iraqis.