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Attack on Australian Soldiers in Southern Iraq

Department of Defence Media Mail List

CPA 263/06 Thursday, 28 September 2006

Update on Attack on Australian Soldiers in Southern Iraq

Yesterday, the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston advised that Australian soldiers serving in Southern Iraq were engaged by Anti-Iraqi Forces and that an intense exchange of fire ensued.

The incident occurred on 26 September whilst elements of the Overwatch Battle Group (West) [OBG(W)] were conducting a meeting at an Iraqi Army Barracks in Al Rumaythah in Al Muthanna Province.

The attack lasted almost an hour and appeared to be well coordinated, including rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.

The Australian soldiers withdrew from the area - under considerable fire - without loss of life, injury or serious damage to equipment and vehicles.

The Commander of OBG(W), Lieutenant Colonel Mick Mahy said that the soldiers “acted with great discipline, exceptional courage and used well executed tactics” to safely withdraw from the area.

The initial assessment indicates that a number of Anti-Iraqi Forces were wounded in the incident, but there have been no reports of civilian death or injury.

The Bushmaster and ASLAV vehicles played a crucial role in protecting the soldiers and allowing them to safely disengage from the contact and move to safety.

In relation to the current public commentary and the suggestion that not enough protection is available to those firing from the vehicle, during discussion after the action one soldier commented that if he had a gun plate installed on the vehicle, he might not have been able to fire as effectively due to it restricting his view.

The vehicle has been designed to operate in a wide range of operational situations and, that said, these matters are the subject of constant review.

Attacks of this nature against Coalition Forces have been conducted in other parts of Iraq and Al Muthanna Province; however this is the first instance of such a sustained and coordinated attack being conducted against Australian forces.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said this incident was a reminder of the dangerous environment in which Australian Forces are operating in Iraq and Afghanistan and that it illustrates the superb leadership, training and equipment that Australian soldiers receive in preparation for these operations.

Defence is concerned that emails purporting to be from soldiers involved in the incident are being mailed to the media. E-mails read by Defence officials this afternoon are clearly not from soldiers involved in the contact. The detail in these emails is grossly inaccurate in terms of scale, location and description of the incident. The e-mails do no service to our soldiers who performed admirably, with great restraint and professionalism.


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