DUE WEST OF NAJAF, Southern Iraq – The First Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division conducted its first planned operation against an Iraqi target Sunday. Battalion forces were engaged twice by enemy forces along Highway 8, first in the village of al-Khadir just south of a-Samwah and later on the outskirts of a-Samwah itself.
In the first battle, Iraqi forces attacked twice. Initially small arms were fired at soldiers from Alpha Company from inside the town's water tower. The troops quickly neutralized the fire and the Iraqi forces surrendered. The job of the troops was to explode Iraqi munitions, which included RPGs, mortars, and AK-37 machine guns, as well as sorting the POWs. These tasks took a number of hours, particularly the former, as the soldiers needed to take the explosives away from the center of town to protect civilians gathered nearby.
After nightfall, the engineering company gathered the explosives, as a second volley of shots was fired at the troops, this time from the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Army. The US forces neutralized the fire.
A 25-millimeter machine-gun round killed two Iraqi soldiers. Soldiers also took an additional 20 prisoners. As Alpha Company secured the village the rest of the battalion continued north on Highway 8 toward a-Samwah.
On the outskirts of the city, a brigade reconnaissance team was ambushed and attacked by Iraqi forces that were stationed in bunkers above them. Two soldiers were shot and moderately wounded. A reconnaissance plane identified the enemy locations.
In the ensuing battle Iraqi forces fired RPGs at US tanks and the US soldiers responded with 120-millimeter rounds and high-explosive artillery rounds. After 20 minutes of battle the Iraqi bunker complex was destroyed, three Iraqis were killed, and 40 surrendered.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.