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October 30, 2004
Release Number: 04-10-27C



CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq — Eight Marines assigned to the I Marine Expeditionary Force were killed in action and nine others were wounded in action today while conducting increased security operations in the Al Anbar Province.  The names of the deceased are being withheld pending next of kin notification.

Here is the New York Times article on the deaths:


Suicide Attack Kills 8 Marines Near Baghdad


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 30 – Eight marines were killed and nine others wounded west of the capital when a suicide car bomb rammed into their convoy on Saturday, military officials said, making it the deadliest day here for the American forces in half a year.

The explosion took place near Abu Ghraib, a prison 15 miles west of Baghdad used by the Americans to hold detainees, said Capt. Bradley Gordon, a Marine spokesman. The military said in a terse written statement that the marines killed were conducting “increased security operations.” Marines have been engaged in a variety of operations in rebellious Anbar Province, which encompasses the parched lands of western Iraq and includes the provincial capital of Ramadi and the insurgent stronghold of Falluja.

In the capital, a powerful car bomb exploded outside the offices of Al Arabiya, a prominent Arab satellite news network, killing at least 7 people and injuring 16 others, hospital officials said. People at the scene said insurgents drove a car packed with explosives up to the office building in Mansour, an affluent neighborhood west of the Tigris River that has recently been plagued by violence.

An hour after the blast, a charred car chassis lay in the road as American soldiers and Iraqi policemen scrambled to cordon off the site.

Also on Saturday, Japanese and Iraqi officials said a decapitated male body discovered in the northern city of Tikrit the previous day was not that of Shosei Koda, a young Japanese traveler being held by the militant group of the Jordanian fighter Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Iraqi officials said the body was that of an Arab man. Mr. Zarqawi’s group said in a video early Wednesday that Mr. Koda would be beheaded if the Japanese government did not withdraw its 550 troops stationed in Iraq within 48 hours, a demand that Japanese leaders rejected.

The American military gave no immediate details on Saturday about the killings of the marines, saying that further information “could aid enemy personnel in assessing the effectiveness or lack thereof with regard to their tactics, techniques and procedures.”

The deaths came as the First Marine Expeditionary Force, charged with controlling western Iraq, were making final preparations for an all-out invasion of Falluja, which is seen as the center of the Sunni-led insurgency. Warplanes conducted airstrikes in southern Falluja on Saturday, while artillery pounded the area. Witnesses in the city said they heard loud explosions and planes flying overhead.

There was no immediate report of casualties from the American military or hospital officials.

On Friday, witnesses in Falluja said an American airstrike had killed four Iraqis.

In the besieged city on Saturday, a council of tribal and religious leaders awaited the arrival of a delegation from the interim National Assembly, which has been charged with helping negotiate a peace settlement and averting the planned American invasion. Peace talks have been continuing in spurts over the past few weeks, though neither side has expressed any optimism. The number of Americans killed in fighting on Saturday was the largest since early April, when 12 marines died in an ambush in Ramadi – one of the deadliest days of combat for the Marines since the Vietnam War. Right after the ambush took place, the military said the marines had been killed when insurgents mounted an assault on a Marine base or outpost. But in recent interviews, marines with the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines, which took charge of Ramadi in early September, said guerrillas had killed the 12 marines in a roadway ambush because they had been riding in unarmored or very lightly armored vehicles.

Since then, insurgents have used car bombs in several incidents to kill large numbers of American troops. On Sept. 6, a car bomb tore through a convoy carrying American and Iraqi troops near Falluja, killing seven marines and three Iraqi security officers. Four months earlier, a car bomb killed eight soldiers from the First Armored Division near Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad.

Senior military commanders have said they will mount a simultaneous offensive in Ramadi, where insurgents have been increasing their foothold, and try to close off the most troublesome parts of the Syrian border, believed to be a transit point for jihadists.

At Camp Ramadi, Army commanders with the Second Brigade Combat Team, responsible for security in central Anbar Province, reflected on the precarious situation in the region.

Col. Gary S. Patton, the brigade commander, said in an interview that to dampen the insurgency, it was crucial to develop effective Iraqi security forces, a strong local government and improved municipal services. “But it’s difficult to do any of that stuff when you’re fighting five-meter targets, terrorists at every street corner,” he said. “And so our fight right now is to gain some freedom of action.”

Maj. Steven Alexander, the brigade operations officer, said Prime Minister Ayad Allawi needed to deal firmly with the mujahedeen in Falluja, but also risked alienating civilians there with a heavy assault. “So I don’t envy his decision,” he said.

The bomb outside the Al Arabiya office in Baghdad exploded in the mid-afternoon, with the blast heard for miles. The explosives detonated after the car pulled up to the gate, about 9 to 13 feet from the office building itself, said Najwa Qasim, a correspondent for the network. A deep pit marked the spot where the bomb went off.

“The damage occurred in the drivers’ rooms and the technicians’ room; there have also been casualties among administration staff,” Mr. Qasim said. “We need some time to get a number for our casualties. The broadcasting room was seriously damaged.”

Al Arabiya’s local headquarters is surrounded by the houses of various Iraqi officials and is just blocks away from the residence of Adnan Pachachi, a prominent member of the former Iraqi Governing Council. A recruiting center for the Iraqi police sits nearby, and American soldiers in Humvees often patrol the leafy suburb.

But the Mansour District has grown increasingly dangerous in recent weeks. A powerful car bomb exploded there last month, and two American engineers and a Briton were kidnapped from their home around the same time and later beheaded by Mr. Zarqawi’s group. Japan was thrown into confusion Saturday over the fate of Mr. Koda, the backpacker who has been taken hostage in Iraq. The day started with Foreign Ministry officials saying at an early morning news conference that a body believed to be that of the backpacker was being flown to Kuwait for identification. But later in the day, Japanese medical officers in Kuwait ruled the case a mismatch. Instead of inspecting the body of long-haired 24-year-old Japanese man, they found that the American forces had sent them the body of a balding Iraqi man in his 50’s.

“I instructed officials to be careful about dealing with unconfirmed information,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters. “The government will make its full efforts to rescue Mr. Koda.”

With Japanese diplomats telling reporters Saturday evening that they believed Mr. Koda was still alive, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters Saturday evening, “We are now back to the starting point.”

Reporting for this article was contributed by Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Ramadi, Khalid W. Hassan from Baghdad, James Brooke from Tokyo and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Falluja.

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