Pentagon fears Iraqi army infiltrated by insurgents


Seven U.S. Marines killed in Iraq

Death toll passes 1,800; Pentagon fears Iraqi army infiltrated by insurgents

NBC News and news services Updated: 8:32 p.m. ET Aug. 2, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The U.S. military said Tuesday that six Marines were killed in action in western Iraq.

The Marines, assigned to Regimental Combat Team-2 of the 2nd Marine Division, died Monday in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad.

A seventh Marine was killed by a car bomb in Hit, 50 miles southeast of Haditha in the volatile Euphrates River valley.

The seven fatalities pushed the death toll for Americans since the start of the war past 1,800.

Insurgents posted handbills in Haditha, claiming to have killed 10 U.S. troops and seizing some of their weapons.

At least 1,801 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,382 died as a result of hostile action. The figures include five military civilians.

Were killings an inside job?

For U.S. military officials, the deaths of the six Marines killed in action Monday raises an unsettling prospect: that they may have been victims of someone with inside information.

The six were members of two sniper teams, trained to pick off the enemy at a distance, one-by-one, with a single precision shot.

Officials report the sniper teams were working together and in position when they were ambushed by an unknown number of insurgents.

Marines nearby heard the short, heavy burst of enemy gunfire that apparently killed five of the Marine snipers instantly. Evidence indicates the attack came so quickly the Marines were unable to return fire.

The sixth Marine either escaped or was taken prisoner but was later found dead a mile or so from the scene of the attack.

The attack is eerily similar to one in nearby Ramadi more than a year ago, when four Marine snipers were ambushed and killed.

In both cases, it’s feared the Marines were betrayed by insurgents who had infiltrated the Iraqi military. In fact, a recent Pentagon report warns that some Iraqi military and police recruits may be insurgent or terrorist infiltrators.

“We need their skills and abilities, so we have to accept some level of risk in having them in the new security forces,” said Jeffrey White, a Pentagon official.

More injuries in Baghdad

In other violence, a roadside bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy exploded Tuesday at the entrance to a tunnel in central Baghdad, and at least 29 civilians were wounded, officials said.

The blast hit as the convoy was about to enter the tunnel in Bab Shargi, near Tahrir Square, said police Capt. Abdul-Hussein Munsif. Two Humvees appeared to have been damaged, he said.

U.S. and Iraqi forces placed a security cordon around the area. The U.S. military had no immediate information on casualties.

An emergency services official said on customary condition of anonymity that 29 wounded civilians were taken to two hospitals.

The bomb left a three-foot-wide crater in the ground. Charred parts from the armored Humvee littered the site and seven civilian cars were also badly damaged.

Blast in Samarra

U.S. troops took away some items from the damaged armored vehicle, including a helmet and two flak jackets.

In Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital, an explosion about 5 a.m. Tuesday damaged a pipeline used for shipping fuel from the Beiji refinery to a power station in the Baghdad area, police said. Insurgents have frequently targeted the line to interrupt electricity in the Baghdad area — already critically low as demand rises in the summer.

The U.S. military said a reporter for the Army Times newspaper embedded with American troops was injured in a suicide car bombing Monday evening in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

U.S. military spokesman Capt. Duane Limpert had no details on the extent of injuries to the reporter, and he added that troops reported only minor injuries.

Amid violence, Iraqi constitution deadline nears

As the Aug. 15 deadline neared for finishing Iraq’s new constitution, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called for it to protect women’s rights, saying it was an important element for the country’s success.

After meeting with representatives from some Iraqi women’s groups, Khalilzad said they agreed that the equality of women “is a fundamental requirement for Iraq’s progress.”

The ambassador said that the U.S. government is expecting a constitution that would ensure full rights to all Iraqis, regardless of their sex, ethnicity or gender.

“My focus is to help get a constitution that does this. Of course, the Iraqis will decide but we will help in any way that we can,” he said.

Khalilzad said his government would encourage Iraqi politicians to exclude any constitutional articles that discriminate or limit opportunities for any Iraqi citizens.

Women urge parliament to limit Islamic role

On Monday, women activists urged parliament to limit the role of Islam in the new constitution and follow international treaties on the rights of women and children.

Khalilzad also called for more involvement by Arab Sunnis in the political process, stressing the necessity of national agreement on the future of Iraq as a way to divide and defeat the insurgency.

“In order to defeat the insurgency, one needs to reach a national compact, because if all Iraqis, including those who in western and central parts of the country see themselves as part of this new Iraq … they will be separated from the insurgency,” he said.

He accused insurgents of attempting to ignite a sectarian civil war in Iraq, adding that the solution to the insurgency problem should not be limited to military means.

“The military solution has to be integrated into a broad strategy that has a political element leading it, and of course, there are other elements.”

NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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