Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Baghdad Death Squad

Baghdad - October 2006 -  The Stryker I am riding in accelerates quickly (as best the 20-ton armored beast can).  We are pursuing a speeding convoy of six vehicles dead ahead.  Four Ministry of Interior unmarked Toyota Land cruisers.  Two Iraqi National Police white-and-blue Chevy 3500 pickup trucks with light bars on the cab.
This is an illegal Iraqi Shiite death squad.
The vehicles have abducted two men from a Sunni neighborhood.  One of the kidnapped men - a fat man - hangs out the window, waving at the Strykers behind.  Suddenly his kidnappers push him out the door of the speeding SUV, shooting him three times in the chest as they do so, thinking the Strykers will stop and they will get away.
The Strykers meant to stop - or one of them meant to - but that didn't happen and the high-speed pursuit continues.  But soon the Iraqi vehicles escape anyway.  It's tough to catch the smaller high-powered Iraqi law-enforcement vehicles.
The Stykers go back to where the man was dumped.  The locals have taken him to the hospital already.
Score for the day:  1 Iraqi kidnapped and presumed killed, 1 kidnapped, shot and dumped.  Iraqi death squad 2, Strykers 0.
In the next two hours the soldiers track down the wounded man for information.  They know winning this war of sectarian violence is going to be a long haul.
They won't be here to see the end of it.  They are shipping back to the States soon, probably in December 2006.
The involvement of Iraqi government vehicles irks them.  The vehicles could have been rented by a crooked motor pool supervisor to the kidnappers, or they could have been real policemen and MoI lawmen.  This American battalion just dismissed an entire Iraqi National Police brigade in this area for being corrupt and colluding with death squads, if not actively participating in them.
They will spend the next two days interviewing people, asking them to report if they see the vehicles again.  The SUVs came from outside the neighborhood, and the soldiers stress to residents that the only way to get through this is to band together and report and resist incursions.
This is thin gruel for Iraqis liable to kidnapped by a dozen heavily-armed death squad members at a time.  But it's the only answer the Amercians can give right now, until the information starts to flow.

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