Battle of Abu Ghraib
|Battle of Abu Ghraib|
|Part of Iraqi insurgency|
Damage done to the Abu Ghraib prison during the 2 April 2005 attack.
|United States||Al Qaeda in Iraq|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ammar Hamza Zubaidi|
|Casualties and losses|
|2 killed and over 44 wounded in action||70 killed (American estimate)|
The Battle of Abu Ghraib was an April 2, 2005 attack on United States forces at Abu Ghraib prison, which consisted of heavy mortar and rocket fire, under which armed insurgents attacked with grenades, small arms, and two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). The U.S. Military's munitions ran so low that orders to fix bayonets were given in preparation for hand-to-hand fighting.
Because of the earlier Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse, the prison was despised by the insurgents.
The initial thrust of the attack consisted of multiple rockets and mortars aimed at every area of the FOB. These were quickly followed by a vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) attacking the northwest section of the outer wall perimeter. This VBIED detonated approximately 100 meters from the wall and was unsuccessful in creating a breach. Observers noted the attack was well-organized and professional, and, due to the broad-daylight preparations, it was also called audacious and brazen. This was the first time that Al-Qaeda in Iraq had directly assaulted the US military, as opposed to the previous use of car bombs. Soldiers present stated that the insurgents had so much firepower that it seemed that over 300 people were attacking.
The US Marine Corps' Echo Company 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines, was stationed at Abu Ghraib and tasked with perimeter defense. Engaging the enemy with a variety of weapons systems from the outer wall defensive platforms, the Marines managed to slow the momentum of the assault.
The main effort of the attack was directed at outer Tower 4, located at the southeast corner of the FOB. Two soldiers rappelled down the wall of the tower down to the ground where they could fight the insurgents, locating themselves at the only place the insurgents could enter the tower. Several US Marines, based in the tower, were wounded when hand grenades were thrown by insurgents from the base of the tower. The tower defenders were then subjected to a concerted push by the insurgents. They took heavy small arms fire, multiple rocket propelled grenades and hand thrown grenades. The Marines held their position, evacuated their wounded, including a severely wounded Navy Corpsman, and reinforced the tower during a heated exchange. Meanwhile, a second smaller attack on the other side of the base was used as a feint to distract from the main attack.
Inside the detention facility, the 306th Military Police Battalion scrambled to maintain effective security and control over the 3,000 detainees housed in Camp Redemption. Approximately 150 detainees breached one of the compound fencelines but were successfully contained and repelled by SPC McClellan of the B/2-111th Field Artillery Regiment of the Virginia National Guard. SPC McClellan was joined by members of the Initial Reaction Force (IRF) within 5 minutes of engaging the detainees at the fence breach. SPC McClellan was later awarded the Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM) with a "V" device for valor.
Units patrolling the surrounding area were also under attack. M1A1 Abrams tanks from Charlie Company 1st of the 256 Armor Battalion, Louisiana National Guard, were under fire on Route Cardinals intersecting Swords, near the prison. Two tanks, C-24 and C-22, were diverted from supporting the prison by a fake improvised explosive device set on a checkpoint by insurgents. Once the tanks received confirmation that Abu Ghraib Prison and the surrounding area was under attack, they moved to support their own dismounted elements near the backside of the prison. On the way they were engaged by numerous IEDS and rocket propelled grenades. Supporting tank platoons in nearby sectors were hit by vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and disabled during their push to support C-22 and C-24. None of the Charlie Company tanks were cleared to use their 120 mm main guns during the fight, but both engaged targets with .50 cal and 7.62 machine guns.
The Marines were reinforced by elements of the 1-119th Field Artillery, Michigan Army National Guard, the 1-623rd Field Artillery Kentucky Army National Guard, the 524th Military Intelligence Battalion, the 2-111th Field Artillery of the Virginia National Guard, the HHC, 306th Military Police Battalion, United States Army Reserve, the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, USAF, and the 115th Combat Support Hospital. These soldiers resupplied ammunition, evacuated casualties for which one soldier, CSM Michael Donohue, 306th MP BN, was awarded an ARCOM with "V", resupplied water to entrenched soldiers and marines, and held various defensive positions throughout the base.
The heaviest action occurred during a 2½ hour period. The insurgents were suppressed and forced to retreat by the arrival of two Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters at approximately 9:45 p.m., Baghdad time. However, sporadic lighter attacks occurred during the remainder of the night and these were repelled. The following day, a third VBIED disguised as an abandoned farm tractor detonated near the walls and two brief firefights ensued. Two of these bodies were placed next to the tractor and rigged with 120 mm mortar cartridge. Iraqi National Police waved off US military personal from the tractor before moving the bodies.
More than 100 mortars and rockets and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition were fired at the U.S. personnel in FOB Abu Ghraib. There were numerous minor injuries and incidents and the destruction of several detainee housing facilities consisting of three tents; two in Level 1 C/D and one in Level 1 A/B, Camp Redemption when rioters set them ablaze with tent poles wrapped in burning rags. Damage to the facility was minor.
Approximately 44 U.S. personnel were injured during the fighting, several seriously enough to be helicoptered out.
An estimated 70 insurgents were believed killed in the engagement. Remains of the Tower 4 VBIED driver were recovered inside the FOB walls. Other remains were confirmed by the tankers that were hit by VBIEDs as well. 12 prisoners were also wounded. Soldiers from the 128th Medical Company (GA) attached to the 115th Field Hospital assisted in the evacuation and treatment of the wounded.
Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, saying their motivation was the Muslims held at the prison. They also stated that they were hoping to free one of Zarqawi's commanders that was held there. They also intended to intimidate the Americans by demonstrating that no place in Iraq was safe. They promised further attacks. They publicly posted a video of the attacks and the preparations.
- Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion 10th Marines
- 3rd Battalion 8th Marines
- HHB 1-102nd Field Artillery Rear Area Operations Center (RAOC)
- 2nd Battalion 111th Field Artillery
- 115th Field Hospital
- 128th Medical Company GA Alabama National Guard
- 1st Battalion 119th Field Artillery
- 1st Battalion 156th Armor, Louisiana National Guard
- HHC 306th Military Police Battalion
- Texas Army National Guard 36 Infantry Division
- 1st Battalion 623rd Field Artillery
- HHC 524th Military Intelligence Battalion/JIDC
- HHC 327th Signal Battalion
- 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron (USAF)
- 327th Signal Battalion (Airborne)/50 signal brigade
- Department Of Defense Security Forces, Tactical Response Team
- Task Force Alcatraz 67th Combat Support Hospital
- 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, USAF
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- "Al-Qaida claims attack on Abu Ghraib". msnbc. April 3, 2005. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- Urban, Mark, Task Force Black: The Explosive True Story of the Secret Special Forces War in Iraq , St. Martin's Griffin, 2012 ISBN 978-1250006967, p.78
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