The details so far reveal that on or about 6 p.m. on Jan. 20, U.S. Civil Affair and other U.S. military officers were meeting with their Iraqi counterparts on the ground floor of the Provisional Joint Coordination Center in Karbala.
Five black GMC Suburbans breezed through the checkpoints and drove into the Governor's Mansion, the secured site of the meeting. The convoy then split into two with one group pulling up to the front, the other moving to the rear of the building. The
Somewhere around a dozen men wearing U.S. style cammo uniforms and carrying U.S. weapons moved into the building where they met resistance. A firefight erupted and the attackers threw grenades. Forced to flee, the interlopers captured two soldiers in the building and then another two who were sitting in a Humvee outside. They left behind four casualties, one U.S. soldier was killed, and three wounded.
Explosives were used to destroy military vehicles in the compound and within minutes the team left in their GMC's with the kidnapped soldiers in the back seats.
The equipment was later found 25 miles east of the abduction site, two of the men were found handcuffed in the vehicle and all were shot in the head shortly after the vehicles were abandoned. The two other soldiers were shot outside. Although one soldier was found still breathing, he died later.
The equipment was found near Mahawil in Babil province. Curiously the kidnappers wore U.S. military uniforms, PSD operators do not wear military uniforms but so wear BDU pants, army type boots, and web rigging similar to U.S. military and paramilitary operators. Security contractors do not wear military jackets, headgear or military type ID.
There are a couple of key points that make this incident worth examining closer. The kidnappers knew exactly where the Americans were, did not shoot any Iraqi soldiers or guards on the way in or out. One Iraqi witness insists that the leader of the English speaking group had blonde hair. Even the direction of their escape was towards the Iranian border
Given the confusion and lack of hard details, the tactics are new and disturbing. Rumors in Karbala say this is an Iranian operation designed gather hostages to exchange for the arrest and detention of own citizens that turned into payback. An American raid on the Iranian embassy the day after the Karbala incident may also be part of the reason for the rumors. President's Bush's decision to allow the killing of Iranian agents in Iraq may also be linked to increased aggression by both sides.
In January three Iranians were arrested in Mosul without papers and another five Iranians were arrested in Arbil on suspicion on being linked to the Revolutionary Guard.
Whether true or not the tactics used on the attack on the Governor's mansion is a disturbing new tactic and threat in Iraq.
On Saturday, Iran's top envoy to Iraq Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi announced that five Iranians arrested by U.S. forces in northern Iraqi city of Arbil after forcibly entering their compound will be released "this week",