Pfc. Matthew McLaughlin
2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist
KHADAMIYA, Iraq – A 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier and more than 20 Iraqi civilians were killed in a coordinated insurgent attack around 1 p.m. here Feb. 19. One U.S. Soldier also was wounded in the attack.
First Lt. Adam Malson, a platoon leader from Rochester Hills, Mich., assigned to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, died when a suicide bomber detonated near him while he tried to rescue Iraqi citizens from a vehicle hit by another suicide bomber minutes before.
"He was moving to help people out of a burning vehicle," said 1st Sgt. Brian E. Byrd, A Company, 4-31 Infantry first sergeant and a friend of Malson. “He valued life. He was trying to take care of people. He was a good leader and took the initiative.”
Malson and other Soldiers from 4-31 Infantry were supporting Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi Police efforts to provide security near the Khadamiya shrine.
Approximately three explosions rocked a street leading to an Iraqi forces checkpoint where Iraqi Police and Iraqi National Guard soldiers were protecting Iraqis peacefully recognizing Ashura, a Shia holiday.
A suicide bomber detonated in a school bus containing women and children, killing an untold number. A second explosion, possibly a rocket-propelled grenade or improvised explosive device, hit the same street moments later, killing more Iraqis. Soldiers from 4-31 Infantry arrived on the scene within minutes to secure the area. A second suicide bomber then hit, killing Malson and a female Iraqi interpreter Crowds of Iraqis gathered to witness the carnage.
“I can’t understand what type of criminal would do this,” said Allah Tabory, an Iraqi onlooker. “It is evil. I hate the people who did this.”
Lt. Col. Michael J. Infanti, 2nd Brigade Combat Team deputy commander, also voiced his disgust with the atrocities.
“Terrorists killed and wounded peaceful Iraqi people coming back from a religious service,” Infanti said. “I don’t know what they were trying to prove by killing innocent men, women and children.”
Although the scene was tragic, IP, ING and 2nd BCT Soldiers succeeded in protecting Iraqis during the Ashura ceremony. Several rings of security prevented more deaths like the attack during the Ashura ceremony in Karbala that killed at least 100 and wounded around 300 Iraqis last March, said Maj. Ronny Echelberger, an adviser to ING soldiers who aided wounded Iraqis from the attack.
"It was tragic, but we were also successful," he said. "Our mission was to prevent bombers from getting near the Khadamiya mosque. We were successful in doing that."
Shia Moslems from around Iraq gathered within the secure area to pay homage to Imam Hussein during the battle of Karbala around 680 A.D. Iraqis chanted in parades and beat themselves with chains and swords to symbolize the pain Hussein went through and to show their dedication to their faith. Although the scene outside the security perimeter was terrifying, one Iraqi child said he felt safe during the ceremonies.
“I felt safe inside because there are so many Iraqi Police,” said the child, whose head was shaved and had small cuts on it from the ceremony. “Those people who got killed were not guilty of anything. I feel sorry for them.”
The fact that insurgents failed to penetrate the checkpoints is a sign that ING and IP soldiers were doing their job, Echelberger said. The attack was a desperate act that happened after the ceremony ended and innocent people were returning home.
"If we had 10 million rings of security, they still would have hit outside the rings," he said. "I was satisfied with (ING and IP) performance."