Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Iraq’s civil defense force asked U.S. soldiers not to aid a besieged Fallujah police station Saturday to keep the defenders from losing face with locals, according to the U.S. commander of coalition forces in the area.

At least 25 people were killed in simultaneous attacks on the police station and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps compound. On Monday, a team of six U.S. congressmen and several members of the Iraqi Governing Council laid a wreath at the Baghdad Police Academy in memory of 17 police officers killed during the attack.

Col. Jefforey Smith, commander of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, now based in Fallujah, said U.S. soldiers prepared to head to the police station after hearing gunfire.

However, the troops at Volturno Forward Operating Base, about seven miles from the police station, were held back at the request of the commander of the 506th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion.

Shortly after the attack started the commander arrived at Volturno seeking weapons and ammunition.

“I asked if he wanted us to send an element but he said [the ICDC and Iraqi police] had the situation under control. We had four military ambulances standing by but he said they didn’t need them,” Smith said.

“He almost demanded we not put forces into Fallujah at that time because it would damage their credibility with the people there if they could not protect themselves.”

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