This is the incident that prompted us to escort recruits from KMTB to another FOB, I had thought they were on big buses, but they were on mini buses going to Baquba, a rat hole of insurgency at the time and still a problem in 2007, Diyala Province, up the hwy. is Sammara & Tikrit (other side of Tigris River and east was our AO Balad ruz (30-40 miles).
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They were a group of unarmed army recruits, young Iraqis who had volunteered to help build a force capable of providing their country with security when the international troops had returned home.
But, to the insurgents, they were seen as traitors working hand-in-hand with the hated powers of occupation. And so, they were massacred, 49 of them, in one of the most brutal acts of violence in the current rebellion.
With Iraqis scheduled to go to the polls in January - and Americans voting next week - the murder of the army recruits starkly demonstrates the difficulty of building a domestic force capable of performing the function of foreign troops when they leave. It also makes a nonsense of claims that the situation on the ground is stabilizing.
The attack took place near Baquba, 40 miles north-east of Baghdad, part of the Sunni triangle into which British soldiers based in Basra in southern Iraq will begin deploying within the next 48 hours. Yesterday, the troops, from Black Watch, held their last church service before the journey to the Iskandariyah area, near Baghdad, to help US forces who are preparing the assault on Fallujah.
The Iraqi men had been on their way home on Saturday night to the cities of Amara and Kut from a training base run by the Americans outside Mandali in eastern Iraq, near the Iranian border, in five minibuses. They had checked in their weapons at the base and were dressed in civilian clothes. They were stopped on a stretch of road between Baladruz and Badra in the Diyala province by insurgents dressed as security personnel at a fake checkpoint between three and five in the afternoon on Saturday. The gunmen shot the tires of the buses and fired rocket-propelled grenades at the engines of the first two vehicles.
The recruits were taken in batches of 12 to the side of the road and made to remove their shoes and lie face down on the ground before being shot in the back of the head.
The killings are seen as a significant step in the growing confidence and propensity to violence of the militants. Although hundreds have died in bombings and mortar attacks, this is the first time they had carried out a planned operation with such a high number of casualties.
Last night, a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who abducted and killed the Briton Ken Bigley, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The discovery of the bodies yesterday took place on another day of killings across Iraq.