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.
DateApril 2, 2005
LocationAbu Ghraib, Iraq
Result Successful American defense of the Abu Ghraib facility
 United States

Iraqi insurgents:

Al Qaeda in Iraq[1]
Commanders and leaders
Ammar Hamza Zubaidi [2][3]
Casualties and losses
2 killed and over 44 wounded in action[1][3][4] 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).[4] 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.

Violence was at a low point in the later half of 2004. One of the insurgent groups making attacks was Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was primarily attacking with suicide bombers and car bombs.[3]

An internet posting by Zarqawi in December 2004 stated that the prison was a target for attack.[2]


At approximately 7:06 p.m. (Baghdad Time) on April 2, 2005,[5] insurgents launched an assault on the U.S. military facility and internment camp at Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

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,[4] and, due to the broad-daylight preparations, it was also called audacious and brazen.[2] 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.[3] Soldiers present stated that the insurgents had so much firepower that it seemed that over 300 people were attacking.[5]

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.[5] Meanwhile, a second smaller attack on the other side of the base was used as a feint to distract from the main attack.[3]

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.[5] 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[3] 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.[5]


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.[6] 12 prisoners were also wounded.[7] Soldiers from the 128th Medical Company (GA) attached to the 115th Field Hospital assisted in the evacuation and treatment of the wounded.


Several soldiers involved received medals for valor during the attack. This includes five members of the 102nd Field Artillery.[8]

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.[3] They promised further attacks.[1] They publicly posted a video of the attacks and the preparations.[2]

Three days after the attacks, a car bomb exploded near the prison. 4 Iraqi civilians were injured in the blast.[9]

Units involved


  1. 1 2 3 "Al-Qaida group claims attack on Abu Ghraib". MSNBC. 2005-04-03. Archived from the original on 25 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-03.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Lisa Myers (2005-04-07). "Zarqawi posts Abu Ghraib attack video on web". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-06-03.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ellen Knickmeyer (2005-04-05). "Zarqawi Said to Be Behind Iraq Raid". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-03.
  4. 1 2 3 "US troops hit in Abu Ghraib attack". Al Jazeera. 2005-04-04. Archived from the original on 1 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-03.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Sgt. Michael J. Carden (2005-04-13). "Marines Relate Events of Abu Ghraib Attack". Multinational Corps-Iraq Public Affairs Office. Archived from the original on July 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-03.
  6. "Al-Qaida claims attack on Abu Ghraib". msnbc. April 3, 2005. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  7. 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
  8. LTC Paul Smith (2005-11-02). "102nd Field Artillery Soldiers Earn Combat Awards". Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs. Retrieved 2007-06-03.
  9. Mariam Fam (2005-04-05). "4 Iraqi civilians hurt in suicide blast near Abu Ghraib prison". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-06-03.

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