The "mosque massacre" ploy

Maj.Gen. Rick Lynch:

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Last Thursday, I talked to you about the hostage rescue of the Christian Peacemakers team and how we had planned in detailed operation to release those hostages. This is exactly the same. This was led, planned and executed by the Iraqi special operations forces, based on detailed intelligence that a kidnapping cell was occupying this complex.

The operation consisted of about 50 members of the Iraqi special operations forces and about 25 U.S. advisors. But the U.S. advisors were there purely in an advisory role. They did none of the fighting; there wasn't a shot fired from a U.S. servicemember during the conduct of this operation.

They surveyed the battlefield in advance, looking for sensitive areas, and they said, "Okay, there are mosques in the area, but the nearest mosque is about six blocks from the target point complex." So a decision was made to do the operation -- focus on this kidnapping cell and try to rescue a hostage, an Iraqi hostage -- an operation planned, led and executed by Iraqi special operations forces.

As they got in the area with their vehicles, they immediately started taking fire from this compound. Now, remember, there are many buildings in that compound and many rooms in the building. They took fire right away; they returned fire. Went into the specific building of choice, they had additional gunfire exchange.

All told, 16 insurgents were killed, 18 were detained. We found over 32 weapons and we found the hostage -- the innocent Iraqi, who just 12 hours before was walking the streets of Baghdad. He was walking the streets of Baghdad en route to a hospital to visit his brother, who had gunshot wounds. He was kidnapped and beaten in the car en route to this complex. When he got there, they emptied his pockets, they took out his wallet, and in the wallet was a picture of his daughter. And he asked for one thing -- he said, "Please, before you kill me, allow me to kiss the picture of my daughter. That's all I ask." The kidnappers told him, "Hey, we got you, and if we don't get $20,000 sometime soon, you're dead." And they showed him the bare electrical wires that they were going to use to torture him and then kill him. And they said, "We're going to go away and do some drugs, and when we come back, we're going to kill you." He was beaten, he was tortured. He was tortured with an electrical drill.

Twelve hours after he was kidnapped, he was rescued by his Iraqi special operation force rescue unit. He is indeed most grateful. He's most grateful to be alive, and he's most grateful to the Iraqi special operations forces.

The closest mosque was six blocks away.

When they got close to the compound, they took fire, and they returned fire. When they got inside the room, a room in this compound, they realized that this could have been a Hussainiyah, a prayer room. They saw a prayer rug. They saw a minaret. They didn't know about that in advance, but from that room and from that compound, they were taking fire. In that room and in that compound the enemy was holding a hostage and torturing a hostage, and in that room and in that compound they were storing weapons, munitions and IED explosive devices. Very, very effective operation, planned and executed by Iraqi special operations forces.

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No mention of the 80 year old iman that the NY Times claimed was a victim of the operation. I think the Times owes us and explanation of their intial report on this rescue, or a correction.

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We're facing a cowardly enemy. Terrorists and foreign fighters have declared war against democracy. And what we're seeing them now do is shift his target from the coalition forces to Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces. In this past week, if you look at casualties, 50 percent of the casualties were innocent Iraqi civilians -- men, women and children simply trying to have a life, to go to work, go to school, go to the store; and they were the casualties, 50 percent. Thirty percent were members of the Iraqi security forces, and only 20 percent of the casualties last week were members of the coalition forces.

This is by design. And if you look at the graphic, what you see since January '04 till now is you see a decrease in the number of casualties of the coalition forces and a significant increase in Iraqi casualties, both security forces and innocent men, women and children of Iraq. The enemy is trying to stop the formation of this national unity government, he's trying to inflame sectarian violence, and he's attacking casualties -- he's attacking civilians for that effect.

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Q Just to -- just to clarify, when you said that the troops did find prayer rugs and a minaret and what appeared to be a mosque space or --

GEN. LYNCH: Hussainiyah.

Q Yes. The torture actually took place in that same room? Is that what you're saying? In that same space, they tortured the hostage?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, if you look at the picture, you can see that this target complex had many buildings and many rooms in those buildings. We had, nor did the Iraqi special operations forces have any indication that there was a hussainiyah inside this target complex. We had none.

When they entered the compound -- remember, after they had been fired upon and returned fire -- when they entered the compound and entered a specific building, they came across this room that indeed had weapons stored in it. Now, whether or not that hostage was in that exact room, I'm not sure, I'm not sure.

But there was a room that looked to be a prayer room. It had a prayer rug and a minaret. It was there. We didn't know about it in advance, nor did the Iraqi special operation force know about it in advance. But we were in a situation that in accordance to rules of engagement we could return fire and conduct operations. We looked very closely in advance -- where is the nearest mosque? The one we were aware of was the one that was six blocks away.

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Q So is it considered a mistake to have invaded this area --

GEN. LYNCH: Not at all. Not at all. Ask the hostage if it was a mistake. Ask this guy who has been there for 12 hours, had been beaten, had been drilled, saw the picture of his daughter and was convinced he's never going to see her, and ask him if that was a mistake. It was an operation to conduct -- to rescue this hostage, and it was an effective operation.

I mean, people ought to be focused on the fact that 50 members of the Iraqi special operation forces planned and conducted this execution. And it was flawless, flawless. They killed 16 insurgents. They captured 18 more. They took no casualties, except for one of their soldiers was wounded. It was a perfect military operation.

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GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, we believe that when people woke up Monday morning, they were misled by what was in the media. And a lot of people took action based on misinformation in the media, to include the governor of Baghdad and the members of the provincial council.

Today at 1400 the governor and the provincial council chairman sat down with the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division and his leadership, and they walked them through in detail what took place to clean up that misinformation and to open those lines of communication.

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See, here's what I picture. I picture a fire that's dying down, and all there are are embers -- a fire dying down and there's embers, and then there's Zarqawi with this poker. And he's poking those embers to ignite the flame.

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There is much more in this weekly brief.

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