Saturday, April 10, 2004

New information about Salvadorans and rooftop seige

From the New York Times yesterday, we get yet another account of Salvadoran troops and their "humanitarian" mission in Iraq.

Note that this incident was nowhere reported in the Salvadoran press, although it was alluded to in the CPA's briefing last Monday in Baghdad by Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He was asked by reporters if he thought this was a crisis:

"I know on a rooftop yesterday in An Najaf, with a small group of American soldiers and coalition soldiers, Spanish soldiers and Salvadorian soldiers who had just been through about three-and-a-half hours of combat, I looked in their eyes, there was no crisis. They knew what they were here for. They'd lost three wounded. We were sitting there among the bullet shells -- the bullet casings, and frankly, the blood of their comrades, and they were absolutely confident."

From the Times report yesterday, however, we learned that it was the Blackwater commandos and their backup air support who saved the day:

Last weekend, eight Blackwater contractors assigned to protect a building in Najaf fought alongside four marines and three Salvadoran soldiers to defeat a determined attack by hundreds of Iraqi militia members. The men fired thousands of rounds, yet were very nearly overrun, Mr. Toohey said. "They were down to single digits of ammo, less than 10 rounds a man."

Desperate and unable to communicate directly with military commanders, the eight Blackwater contractors instead called in help from Blackwater employees, he said. With approval from Mr. Bremer's staff, three Blackwater helicopters — the same ones used to ferry Mr. Bremer around Iraq — were dispatched to the Najaf battle to drop ammunition and retrieve a wounded marine.

"It was O.K. with him if they went out and saved some American lives," Mr. Toohey said of Mr. Bremer.

In case you missed it, the Washington Post on Thursday said that Blackwater and other security outfits in Iraq numbered some 20,000, making it "what may effectively be the largest private army in the world, with its own rescue teams and pooled, sensitive intelligence."

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