Sunday, April 03, 2005

At Least 20 U.S. Troops Wounded in Attack on Iraqi Prison

April 3, 2005
At Least 20 U.S. Troops Wounded in Attack on Iraqi Prison

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sunday, April 3 - Using suicide car bombs and an array of weapons, scores of insurgents made the biggest assault yet on the American-controlled Abu Ghraib prison on Saturday evening, American military officials said. At least 20 American soldiers and marines were wounded.

Forty to 60 insurgents attacked the prison from opposite directions, but were repelled by the Americans in a pitched battle that lasted for 30 to 40 minutes, the officials said. They added that they knew of only one insurgent who had been killed, but said it was almost certain the guerrillas suffered additional casualties.

The assault appeared to be an attempt to break prisoners out of a part of the center that is controlled by Iraqi security forces, said Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for the American detainee system in Iraq.

The assault was so intense that the American troops at the prison called in three Apache attack helicopters and a Marine infantry company, the colonel said. The marines quickly secured the area around the prison. Of the 20 Americans hurt, 18 had only minor wounds, Colonel Rudisill said.

The attack was the latest in a recent pattern of large, well-organized bands of guerrillas battling American forces.

On March 23, American troops helped Iraqi forces overrun a lakeside training camp of scores of insurgents northwest of Baghdad. Four days earlier, an American convoy fended off an ambush by 40 to 50 insurgents southeast of the capital.

The Americans are holding 3,446 detainees in Abu Ghraib, where eight American soldiers were charged last year with prisoner abuse. Iraqi security forces are also holding prisoners there, though Colonel Rudisill said that he did not know how many the Iraqis had in custody.

The attack began after 7 p.m., when a suicide car bomber tried ramming into the northeast corner of the prison, the colonel said. Insurgents there then opened up with small arms and mortar fire. At the southwest corner, another suicide car bomber exploded, followed by more guerrilla fire.

On Saturday morning, a car bomb exploded at a police station in the town of Khan Bani Saad, 10 miles north of Baghdad, killing four policemen and one civilian and wounding three policemen and a civilian, the Interior Ministry said.

Also on Saturday, the American military said a marine was killed the previous day by small-arms fire in Ramadi.