Twenty-three terrorists killed after massing on Donkey Island
U.S. Army forces, with the help of Iraqi police, beat back an attempted al Qaeda in Iraq assault on Ramadi on June 30 and July 1. At least 23 insurgents “affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq” were killed in a series of raids against Donkey Island, which sits about 3 miles south of Ramadi. “Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces received reports that a significant number of anti-Iraqi forces had gathered on the outskirts of Ramadi to stage a series of large scale attacks,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “The group, affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq, intended to regain a base of operations in Al Anbar with suicide car and vest bomb attacks.”
Major Jeff Pool, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Force West, stated in an email that Iraqi Police in the region provided the intelligence on the insurgent force at Donkey Island.
Multinational Force West provides a detailed account of the battles, which consisted of ground attacks backed by Apache helicopter gunships and fixed wing fighter-bombers. Several of the insurgents had suicide vests, and a sophisticated bunker complex and fighting positions were discovered and destroyed.
The battle began at approximately 9:20 p.m. Saturday when Coalition Forces were attacked with small arms fire from two trucks near their position. U.S. Soldiers returned fire and pursued the fleeing attackers with the help of Army AH-64A Apache helicopter gun ships, Marine F-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier fighter jets. Helicopters killed at least one insurgent and wounded another, and destroyed the two trucks, later determined to be loaded with weapons, ammunition and explosives.
A detailed search of the area at 5 a.m. Sunday discovered 22 dead insurgents, including seven who were wearing suicide vests, as well as 24 homemade grenades, 20 pressure plate improvised explosive devices, assault rifles and machine guns, military uniforms, suicide vests and backpacks with first aid kits. Most of the enemy were dressed in similar white dishdashas and white running shoes, an outfit often associated with extremist fighters prepared to kill themselves.
Coalition Forces continued their search for any remaining enemy or weapons caches in the area. Around 2 p.m., extremist forces again attacked with machine gun fire, grenades and a suicide vest. Coalition Forces responded with small arms fire and grenades, killing at least one insurgent. Helicopter gun ships and fighter jets provided aerial surveillance and engaged multiple enemy positions, including the destruction of an enemy bunker complex with precision guided munitions. Coalition Forces detained two enemy fighters and transported them to a military detention facility for questioning.
Major Pool stated that al Qaeda will not concede Anbar province without a fight. “Every assessment I hear says that AQI will not give up Al Anbar even if that means random suicide attacks; anything to keep them relevant.” While it may seem counterintuitive, al Qaeda’s suicide campaign against the tribes and local security forces are what turned the tide against the terror group in Anbar province. “These attacks focusing mainly on Iraqi Security Forces and infrastructure represent acts of desperation on the part of AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq],” Major Pool said. “Al Qaeda suicide attacks against infrastructure or Iraqi police is a set back for AQI not Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces.”
The “surge” has helped Multinational Force West capitalize on recent gains in Ramadi and in greater Anbar province. “With our surge forces on deck (13th Marine Expeditionary Unit) we have the additional capacity to go out and find AQI wherever they are hiding,” said Major Pool. “This task is made easier, not easy, by Iraqi Security Forces. Iraqi police provided the information about Donkey Island to military forces in Ramadi.” Brigadier General Charles M. Gurganus, commanding general of Ground Combat Element, Multinational Force West, echoed this sentiment in a recent interview at The Long War Journal on Operation Fahrad Al Amin, the Anbar offensive as part of Operation Phantom Thunder.