ZARIAH, Iraq -- In an Iraqi Police led raid on a small cluster of houses outside the village of Zariah, three insurgents were killed and five were detained, Jan. 23, 2007.
Two Iraqi Policemen (IPs) were also killed in the fighting; marking the first of Haditha’s IPs killed in the line of duty in more than six months according to Lt. Col. Muhada Mahzir, Haditha IP deputy commander.
A group of Marines from the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment accompanied the IPs on the operation. The Marines were on hand primarily to supervise the raid and assess how well the IPs employed their tactics.
The Marines from 2nd Battalion are responsible for the security of the Haditha “Triad” region – a region in western Al Anbar Province that sits on the banks of the Euphrates River and consists of the cities of Haditha, Haqlaniyah and Barwanah.
The village of Zariah sits on the banks of Lake Qadisiyah, roughly 20 kilometers north of the triad and is home to less than 1000 Iraqis. The village was suspected to be an insurgent safe haven where anti-Iraqi forces would retreat to after attacking Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Coalition Forces in the Triad.
“The IPs got (intelligence) that terrorists would move from Zariah down to the triad to conduct attacks on ISF and Coalition Forces and then move back up to Zariah to hideout,” said Maj. Eric E. Glassie.
The terrorists who use Zariah as a hideout are thought to be largely foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan according to Mahzir.
The raid was conceived, planned and executed almost solely by the Haditha IP, demonstrating how far the young police force has come in recent months, according to Glassie, Police Training Team (PTT) officer in charge and 38-year-old from Stafford, Virginia.
“They (IP) have come an awful long way in the last couple months, but there is still some progress they need to make,” said Glassie.
Since September 2006, the number of Shurta, the Arabic word for Police, on the local IP force has ballooned from 24 to more than 200. While most of the new Haditha IPs are from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, more than 30 men from Haditha have volunteered for service in the past two weeks. These “home-grown” volunteers represent a “monumental achievement” for this community that has been gripped by violence for years, according to Glassie.
The outcome of the raid had an immediate effect on the IPs, according to Mahzir. On one hand they saw the raid as a setback because of the loss of two comrades, but it was also seen as a “rallying point” for the police force.
“Two of our brothers died in the raid, but that does not mean the operation was a failure,” said Mahzir. “The terrorists we killed and detained were very bad people.”
The long term effect of the operation on the IPs will only be shown in time, according to Lt. Col. James Donnellan, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion.
“As this event recedes into their (IPs) memory, they’ll refer to it as a day they killed three very bad guys and captured a few more,” said Donnellan. “In the long run I think the sacrifice of their fellow Shurta will be put in perspective.”
In other news, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the arrests of more than 400 members of the Shiite militia Mahdi Army.
The arrests came on the heels of President George W. Bush’s announcement to increase troop levels in Iraq by approximately 20,000. In the same announcement Bush called for the Iraqi government to crack down on the Shiite militias in and around Baghdad.