Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Australian Troops Under Fire In Iraq

It is still unclear exactly why the Howard government deems it so necessary to keep details of what has happened to Australian diggers in Iraq away from the public.

While there is an argument to be made for some "classified" status to be put on certain security and operations related details, Howard and his defence minister, Brendan Nelson, could be viewed as hiding the true facts of the Iraq War, as far as Australians are concerned, from the public. Particularly the casualty figures, including an admitted 20 battle related injuries.

As the following story explains, Australian troops in Iraq have fought for their lives against insurgent attacks numerous times. They've been hit by sniper fire and grenade attacks and engaged in full-blown firefights :

In one fight, Diggers were defending their patrol against insurgent positions as a rocket-propelled grenade skidded towards an Australian group that had been under heavy fire.

"The (patrol) was targeted unsuccessfully by an RPG round from a roof top," an ADF message from Iraq to Headquarters Joint Operations Command in Canberra states.

"(It) was also targeted by an RPG round which passed behind the vehicle and bounced off into a vacant area."

More RPGs were fired, as were automatic pistols on a number of flanks as the Australians returned fire, neutralising one building where insurgents were holed up.

In heavy traffic on the deadly roads of Baghdad, Diggers have also been forced to fire on civilian vehicles suspected of being suicide bombers at least nine times.

The exchanges have caused about five deaths including an apparently drunken Iraqi driver, an Iraqi government bodyguard, a US security employee and a soft-drink seller.

Incidents included Australian troops chased and fired on insurgents running along a levee and hiding in a palm forest, after they aimed five mortar rounds towards a Coalition area and an Australian patrol fired on with RPG fire and returned fire, moving through the ambush.

A lone insurgent sniper fired on Australians with an AK-47 from a roof, so they returned fire, and an Australian patrol returning to base was fired on by two mortars and a light machinegun.

Close calls for Australian troops in Iraq came with the territory, Brig. Gus Gilmore said.

"There is no doubt Iraq is a dangerous place, that's why our force protection measures and our training are so important," Brig. Gilmore, back from six months in Iraq, said yesterday.

"Our soldiers are well trained and well equipped and very professional, and that's contributed to our relatively low rate of injuries," Brig. Gilmore said.

"It is important not to understate the risks they face daily."

Brig. Gilmore said major attacks on Australian troops, like the insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades, were to be expected.

"It's just one example of a number of occasions where our troops have found it necessary to repel an attack."

It is a mark of the professionalism of the Australian soldiers that none have been killed in such a hostile environment by insurgents, and civilian casualties, compared to the Americans, resulting from ADF operations are extremely low.