Saturday, July 05, 2003

Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Rabena 

U.S. soldiers find weapons hidden in graves

05.07.2003 - 12:00
By Daniel Trotta

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Under cover of darkness, they climbed over the cemetery wall and leapt from grave to grave in search
of booty hidden within the sarcophagi.

The U.S. soldiers on Operation Grave Digger found roughly what they were after in Baghdad's King's Cemetery on Saturday:
six AK-47 rifles, five fragmentation grenades, loads of ammunition, bayonets and other weapons including an RPK machine

They also detained half a dozen people, mostly curfew violators but also one man who approached their outer cordon with a
9 mm pistol in his waistband, a grenade in his pocket and papers believed to be plans for an attack.

With an average of 13 attacks a day on the U.S.-led occupation forces and 26 Americans killed since major combat was
declared over on May 1, searches of this kind have taken on urgency. The grenades especially were considered a good find.

"They've been attacking us specifically with this stuff and we know that they are taking some out of there and moving it to
Falluja," said Major Scott Sossaman, referring to an anti- American hotbed some 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

A prior raid also turned up rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, the weapon of choice for guerrillas.

When they first began graveyard searches, the soldiers randomly removed the lids of the sarcophagi, empty boxes atop the
bodies buried underground. Then they discovered how to tap on the lids and listen for signs of a cache.

Because weapons were stored there, the cemetery was no longer protected under rules of engagement, according to
officers of the 2-3 Artillery Battalion, part of the First Armoured Division. Local people and special operations forces had tipped
them off about the caches.

The soldiers launched Operation Grave Digger after midnight, in the hours of the U.S. imposed curfew, to avoid attracting a
crowd or potential protests from anyone offended by foreigners disturbing the graves of their ancestors.

"One of those rounds was earmarked for a soldier or a convoy... We may have saved somebody's life... It definitely weighs in
favour if you've got to step through a graveyard like this," said Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Rabena, commanding officer of the
artillery unit.


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