Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Greetings from crazy Diyala

I am sitting on the roof of an Iraqi/American outpost. There is a huge gun battle playing out around me. I have on flip flops. My toes are freezing. I am sitting on a concrete block in front of a "desk" a soldier made for me out of some wooden stairs.

We went on a mission yesterday to the neighborhood of Burtiz. Soldiers have died there. We lost 2 Iraqi soldiers yesterday. The three who were wounded may not make it. Their humvee hit at IED. They dragged it out of the canal and past my humvee last night. It was just a still-smoking axle. That's all that was left of it. I'm glad it was dark and I couldn't see more.

We have been stopped several times due to IEDs. Luckily, we happened upon the men planting a "daisy chain" of them the other day. They first opened fire on a nearby checkpoint to distract them and close off civilian traffic, then they began placing the artillery shells and mortars along the road. That's when we drove up. They ran. The soldiers I was with called in air support. They gave chase. We also noticed ahead of us some civilian men had stopped traffic. There is no way they could have seen the devices, so the soldiers suspect they were also in on the plan. It was eerily well-coordinated. And if we'd arrived a few minutes later, some of us would not be here today.

The room I'm staying in belonged to a soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb. He was from Louisiana. His name is still on his locker and sometimes I "talk" to him at night. Quietly, so no one will think I'm crazy.

The mission yesterday involved going house to house with Iraqi soldiers. Two snipers took aim at us. A couple of streets away, there were gunbattles between fighters and the Iraqi soldiers.

The Americans called in air support. The planes took care of a few targets.

But today, the gun battles continue. The military sees Buritz as key to giving back control of Baqouba to the Iraqi Security Forces. It doesn't seem likely anytime soon.

I'm heading back to Baghdad.

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