Mar. 28, 2005 – An Iraqi government official who two days ago boasted that Iraqi commandos backed by US forces killed 84 insurgents in a "fierce battle" during a raid on a rebel training camp described the fighting much differently Friday. "I wouldnâ€™t call it a major incident," Sabah Kadhim, a spokesperson for Iraqâ€™s Interior Ministry told the Washington Post.
But rather than clarifying details about the raid, which reportedly took place Tuesday near Lake Tharthar in a remote area northwest of Baghdad, Kadhimâ€™s new statements contained more contradictions, adding to doubts about the nature of the battle and the number of insurgents killed. While he downplayed his earlier account of the fighting, Kadhim continued to describe the raid as a "major operation" -- the first such assault on insurgents planned and executed by Iraqi forces with the US playing a supporting role, he said.
The Post also reported Friday that US officials said American troops found no bodies after searching the site of the raid Wednesday. Major Richard Goldenberg, a spokesperson for the 42nd Infantry Division, said insurgents fleeing the assault must have taken their dead comrades with them. A group calling itself the Islamic Army of Tikrit issued a statement after the raid, saying only eleven rebels died in the fighting. Goldenberg downplayed casualty figures, saying that "somewhere between eleven and 80 lies an accurate number."
Goldenberg told the Post that the raid was still significant because of "the effect it had on the insurgency." That "insurgency" unleashed several attacks across Iraq Friday, assassinating a senior Iraqi military commander and setting off car bombs that reportedly killed 15 people and wounded 23.