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Saturday, February 14

Fallujah attacks kill 17 Iraqi policemen

By Army Times

FALLUJAH, Iraq - Insurgents staged simultaneous morning assaults on three police stations, a civil defense base and the mayor's office Saturday in what one Iraqi military leader called a ``well-coordinated and well-financed attack.''

The insurgents almost overran one police station, freeing about 20 prisoners and killing 17 policemen, according to Lt. Col. Suliman Hammad, a battalion commander for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. At least four of the attackers were killed.

Two of the dead insurgents carried papers identifying them as Lebanese and one carried papers identifying him as Iranian, according to Iraqi and U.S. military officials.

It was unclear how many attackers there were. But Hammad and other Iraqi police and military officials said the attacks all began about 8:15 a.m. with a cascade of rocket propelled grenade and machine gun fire at the five different locations. Fighting continued for nearly an hour.

No American troops were involved in the fighting. Officers from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed a 10-minute drive away could hear the battle clearly. They offered help but the Hammad said it wasn't needed. The Americans did provide additional ammunition and weapons, including light machine guns.

After the battle, soldiers at the civil defense base proudly displayed a light machine gun and a pair of rocket propelled grenade launchers they had captured from the attackers. Thursday, insurgents fired a pair of rocket propelled grenades at this same base while Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, was staging an inspection. Abizaid was unhurt.

At the police station hardest hit Saturday, bodies of four of the attackers were laid out on the floor of a small room. Walls were pitted from gunfire and windows were smashed.

Hammad said, ``The idea (of the attacks) is to create instability. That's what it's for.''

He added, ``There has to be a foreign agency that is financing this type of thing.''

Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghad, is in the heart of the so-called Sunni Triangle, an area that remains a hotbed of armed resistance to the American presence.

``Pretty much every time you go down there you get shot at,'' said Capt. Ryan Huston, 25, of Huntsville, Ala. Huston is the liaison officer from the 82nd Airborne to the city of Fallujah. ``I can almost count the times I went there and didn't get shot at.''

As an American patrol sent to the police station in mid afternoon to gather intelligence about the attackers pulled away, AK47 fire echoed through the nearby streets.