KHALDIYAH, Iraq – American soldiers killed an Iraqi who attacked their positions Wednesday, a U.S. officer said. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded during the fight when their automatic grenade launcher malfunctioned.
Two Iraqi men armed with Kalashnikov (search) assault rifles attacked a U.S. position near a dam north of the town of Khaldiyah, 45 miles west of Baghdad (search), said Maj. Justin Rideout, executive officer of Task Force 4-64 of the 3rd Infantry Division (search).
A quick reaction team sent to counter the attack spotted two men carrying assault rifles running from the area along a canal, Rideout said. The force opened fire with .50 caliber machine guns and a Mk-19 automatic grenade launcher. One suspect was killed when the soldiers fired on a building where he was taking cover and the second man got away.
While the soldiers were firing the 40 mm grenade launcher, it misfired, Rideout said. The soldiers corrected the problem, but the next round exploded when it entered the chamber. The driver of the Humvee and the gunner were seriously wounded.
"Shrapnel from the barrel of the gun exploded in [the gunner's] face," Rideout said. The soldiers were evacuated to a field hospital, where they were listed in stable condition, he added.
The names of the soldiers involved were withheld until the next of kin could be notified.
The attack came just hours before the task force commander, Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp, presented the Khaldiyah mayor and police chief with a four-passenger pick-up truck and weapons for the police department.
"We look forward to improving the security situation so we can eventually hand it over to you," DeCamp told the mayor and police chief. Both men had complained that since U.S. forces took over the area, they haven't been able to work because they weren't properly equipped.
Troops from the 3rd Infantry were sent to Khaldiyah and neighboring Habaniyah and Fallujah to quell repeated attacks against U.S. supply convoys.
Lt. Col. Abed Khaled, the commander of the Khaldiyah police, promised to begin patrols and help neighborhood watch groups identify strangers in their neighborhoods. Khaled said most attacks were carried out by strangers, using the conservative community to hide from U.S. forces.
Since U.S. forces entered Fallujah, four American soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded by insurgents and U.S. troops have killed at least 23 Iraqis and wounded 78 wounded.