Plugging leaks in Iraq border town

Plugging leaks in Iraq border town
October 26th, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: Plugging leaks in Iraq border town

Plugging leaks in Iraq border town
by Patrick Baz

AL-QAIM, Iraq, Oct 26 (AFP) - Nestled on the roof of a house being built
here, a marine sniper team scouts for insurgents they say slip across the
Syrian border to take pot shots, while the population trickles back into

Shots ring out and bullets whistle over the US troops shielded by waist-high
walls and blankets that mask their movements.

A few smack into the house and an officer peering through binoculars points
in the direction of the firing, a block of houses with blue doors.

Three mortar rounds fired from a few kilometers (a mile or two) away slam
into the houses, throwing up clouds of white dust, while heavy machine guns
from US armored vehicles stationed in the streets pound the target.

"There is a good mix of both insurgents and foreign fighters", comments
Lieutenant Colonel Julian Alford, commander of the 3rd Regiment, 6th Marine
Battalion. "They infiltrate at night and fire at us. They keep on the move."

During an inspection of his troops, Alford points with his cigar towards
Syria, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) to the west. "They come across the

Captain Brendan Heaterman, in charge of Kilo company which overlooks
Al-Qaim, says "if they shoot at us, I don't care where they are or coming
from -- we will kill them."

According to Colonel Stephen Davis: "We kill an average of 10 a day for the
last 20 days. But they keep coming and keep doing the same stupid things".

A marine looks from behind sandbags and through bullet-proof windows at
rooftops on the east side of the city, where white flags fly amid laundry
that has been hung out to dry.

A gutted car lies in the street and an orange and white taxi that was
crushed by a tank has been recycled into a barricade, while stray dogs
scavenge for something to fill their bony bodies.

"We are seeing people coming back," Alford says, but only to the eastern
side of the city of 100,000 people.

The western half closer to the Syrian border is constantly infiltrated.

A few cars circulate in the city with white flags attached to their radio
antennas. When a US convoy approaches, they pull over to the side of the

Checkpoints guard the road southeast from Al-Qaim towards the insurgent
strongholds of Ramadi and Fallujah, and are manned by marines, and soldiers
of the First Iraqi Brigade.

"We look for three things -- military-aged males, ammunition and loads of
money," Alford says.

In camps dug into the white sand near the roadblocks, the marines train
Iraqi soldiers in urban warfare tactics, while others fill sandbags or dig
trenches in the desert.

Above them, US and Iraqi flags flap side by side in the wind.