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FishForLunch
04-08-2004, 11:08 PM
FALLUJAH, Iraq ---- When troops came banging on her door Wednesday, Fallujah resident Um Ahmad said she expected them to be some of the several hundred U.S. Marines who have been battling insurgents from a field near her government apartment building since Monday.

But when she opened the door, she was shocked to find an Iraqi face and hear an Arabic voice at her door instead.

Iraqi troops say her surprise has been a common reaction of Iraqi citizens to encounters with the newly formed Iraqi army special forces, who were first fielded in Baghdad in January and who made their debut Wednesday in Fallujah.

"They say, 'good!' " said Iraqi special forces soldier Mazin Fallah, 25, one of the nearly 60 Iraqi special operations troops who searched several apartment buildings room by room Wednesday after the troops were shelled with mortars.

"They say they are surprised but glad we are fighting," he said in the strained English he said he learned in college in Baghdad. "They say Iraq needs an Iraqi army, not more terrorists."

While the Iraqi troops sometimes confounded their U.S. Special Forces advisers who led them on Wednesday's operation, at least they showed up for the fight.

About 2,000 soldiers of the newly formed Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, who were paid by Marines last weekend, were supposed to help the 2,000-some Marines with a massive cordon of war-torn Fallujah this week.

But when heavy fighting erupted as the Marines arrived Monday near the city, all but about 20 of the Iraqi ICDC troops fled.

"It was a disappointment, yes," said Capt. Phil Cushman, the Camp Pendleton Marine "adviser" in charge of training, equipping and fielding the ICDC troops in Fallujah.

"They all sure showed up for payday," said Marine Pfc. Henry Johnson, 19, of Dallas.

Lance Cpl. Lucas Burton, 21, of Salem, Ore., said he, too, was disappointed and felt a bit betrayed by the ICDC desertion, but he said he was heartened by the apparent willingness to fight displayed by the Iraqi special forces troops.

"I'd rather have a few of these guys anyway," said Burton. He made the comment Wednesday before embarking on an operation into buildings near the edge of Fallujah, where he eventually joined a U.S. Special Forces sniper on a rooftop to help spot insurgents in nearby facing buildings.

The ragtag group of unshaven, AK-47-toting Iraqi commandos have been knocking down doors in Baghdad looking for insurgents since January, according to a U.S. Special Forces adviser who called himself "Greg."

"They're getting there," he said after some loud confusion over whether they were going to ask neighbors for a key to a door or break it down.

There was much yelling and arguing in Arabic as about 30 of the Iraqi troops made their way through the four-story building, where resident Ahmad and a dozen other women and children huddled in a lower apartment to avoid being hit with mortars that had been fired nearby.

No one seemed to be in charge, but in the end, the Iraqi troops seemed to make friends of the residents.

"People like us," said Abbas Khudhair, who added that while most of his comrades were from the Kurdish north, the force included members from all regions of the country, included Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and included most of the political parties represented in Iraq's new government.

Khudhair, 22, of the town of Hillah in the Babylon province, said his group was the future of Iraq.

"We work together for all Iraq," he said.

His comrade Fallah said the same, adding that all of Iraq needs them now in Fallujah more than ever.

"They kill Iraqis like they kill Americans," he said of the insurgents whose mortar fire had just rocked the apartment building where they searched for information about why most of the building's residents cleared out just minutes before the attack ---- as if they knew the mortar attack was coming.

"We will fight with the Americans to kill the terrorists," Fallah said.

Staff writer Darrin Mortenson and staff photographer Hayne Palmour are reporting from Iraq with Camp Pendleton Marines. Their coverage is collected at www.nctimes.com/military/iraq.

Evilmav2
04-09-2004, 12:53 AM
Great article Fish. Thanks for posting this.