View Full Version : Riflemen use Iraqi civilians as spotters and shields

11-05-06, 11:03 AM
Sunday, November 5, 2006
Riflemen use Iraqi civilians as spotters and shields
The New York Times

KARMA, Iraq - In recent months, military officers and enlisted Marines say, the insurgents have been using snipers more frequently and with greater effect, disrupting the military's operations and fueling a climate of frustration and quiet rage.

The threat has become serious enough that in late October the military conducted an internal conference about it, sharing the experiences of combat troops and discussing tactics to counter it.

The battalion commander of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines recalled eight sniper hits on his Marines in three months. Two of the battalion's five fatalities have come from snipers.

A sniper team was captured in the area a few weeks ago, he said, but more have taken its place.

"The enemy has the ability to regenerate, and after we put a dent in his activity, we see sniper activity again," said the commander, Lt. Col. Kenneth M. DeTreux.

Marines in two infantry companies recounted more cases. They typically occur when the Marines are not engaged in combat.

By many measures, the Iraqi snipers have shown unexceptional marksmanship, usually shooting from within 300 yards, far less than ranges preferred by the elite snipers in Western military units. But as the insurgent sniper teams have become more active, the Marines here say, they have displayed greater skill, selecting their targets and their firing positions with care. They have also developed cunning methods of mobility and concealment, including firing from shooting platforms and hidden ports within cars.

They often use variants of the long-barreled Dragunov rifle, which shoots higher-powered ammunition than the much more common Kalashnikov assault rifles. Their marksmanship has improved to the point of being good enough.

"In the beginning of the war, sniping wasn't something that the Iraqis did," said Capt. Glen Taylor, the executive officer of the battalion's Company G.

The insurgents are recruiting snipers and centralizing their instruction, the captain said, meaning that the phenomenon is likely to grow.

The Marines also express their belief that the sniper teams have a network of spotters, and that each time the Marines leave their outpost, spotters hidden among the Iraqi population call the snipers and tell them where the Marines are and what they are doing. The snipers then arrive.

Most of the time, the Marines said, the snipers aim for their heads, necks and armpits, displaying knowledge of gaps in their protective gear. They typically shoot once and disappear. And they often fire on the opposite side of obstacles like canals, which limits a unit's ability to capture the sniper or respond with fire.

The Marines working in Anbar are under orders to show restraint, a policy rooted in hopes of winning the trust of the civilian population. Iraqi snipers seem to know these rules and often fire from among civilians, the Marines say. In two sniper shootings witnessed by two journalists for The New York Times, on Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, the snipers fired from among civilians. The Marines did not fire back.