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Wednesday | June 11, 2003

Welcome to the miniwar

G.I.'s in Iraqi City Are Stalked by Faceless Enemies at Night
By MICHAEL R. GORDON


FALLUJA, Iraq, June 10 Since the American command quadrupled its military presence here last week, not a day has gone by without troops weathering an ambush, a rocket-propelled grenade attack, an assault with automatic weapons or a mine blast.

American forces are still not clear exactly who their opponent is. Enemy fighters they have killed have not carried identification, and local residents have provided only limited intelligence about who is behind the attacks.

But one thing is already clear. American forces seem to be battling a small but determined foe who has a primitive but effective command-and-control system that uses red, blue and white flares to signal the advance of American troops. The risk does not come from random potshots. The American forces are facing organized resistance that comes alive at night.

Specialist William Fernandez experienced the enemy tactics firsthand while on patrol on Sunday night. The patrol was made up of National Guard troops from Massachusetts and Rhode Island who serve in the military police unit here. Specialist Fernandez, a computer engineer in civilian life, was operating the radio.

When he saw a red flare he sensed his patrol was about to be attacked. Suddenly, a grenade exploded directly behind the column of six Humvees, a move he believed was intended to encourage the Americans to drive forward into the kill zone.

Automatic-weapons fire erupted from several rooftops. The Americans fired at the muzzle flashes and left the scene after several minutes. Most of the Humvees had bullet holes, but the soldiers somehow escaped injury.

"It is a miniwar," Specialist Fernandez said.

Just another day in the combat zone.

It may be Saddam's Fedayeen, it could be a mixure of groups, but whomever they are, they are professional soldiers with real training.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 11, 2003 01:39 AM | Comments (244)





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