Marines Fire On Ramadi Mosque To Repel Attacks
Posted on Tuesday, April 18 2006

A coordinated attack from three directions on the governor's compound in Ramadi Monday left an unknown number of insurgents dead after an hourlong fight with U.S. Marines.

The insurgent assault - which included car bombs, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun and small-arms fire - occurred between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., the U.S. military said in a written statement.

Militants used a suicide car bombing to attack an observation point, wounding one Marine. Two other car bombs were stopped and destroyed by Marines firing from observation posts, the military said. Insurgents also fired on the compound from a mosque about 330 yards (300 meters) away in the center of the city with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.

The Marines called for air support against the fire coming from the mosque, but ground forces arrived first.

"The Marines returned fire but continued to be attacked from the mosque's minaret," the military statement said. "The Marines fired one 120 mm tank round and several 7.62 mm machine-gun rounds into the minaret, after which fire from the mosque ceased."

CNN correspondent Arwa Damon said she saw two tank rounds fired into the mosque.

"This is the fourth time in three-and-a-half weeks that the Ramadi Government Center has received attacks from the Fatemat Mosque," said Lt. Col. Stephen M. Neary, commander of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. He said the Marines "only used the proportionate amount of force necessary."

"Coalition forces take significant measures to respect all religious sites," said Lt. Col. Bryan Salas, a Marine spokesman. "But we always maintain the inherent right of self-defense. When insurgents use holy places as safe havens from which to attack coalition forces, it is important that we act quickly to defend ourselves and innocent Iraqi civilians," he said.

U.S. military officials said some insurgents were killed in the mosque, but had no specific figures. The Marines also said they killed a three-man mortar team during the hour-long fight.

The governor was at the compound Monday but was not injured.

It was just another day in the restive provincial capital, where officials said the compound sometimes comes under attack four of five times daily.

Central Ramadi is the most dangerous part of the restive city, which is home to three Iraqi army brigades and what a U.S. military commander described as a growing police force.

Western Iraq's sprawling Anbar province has been the scene of some of the worst fighting in the 3-year-old Iraqi war.