Military Wiki
Karbala Provincial Headquarters Raid
Part of the Iraqi insurgency
DateJanuary 20, 2007
LocationKarbala, Iraq
Result Insurgent victory
United States United States File:Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq flag.svg Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq[1]
Commanders and leaders
1LT Jacob Fritz Azhar al-Dulaimi
at least 25 9-12 (possibly 30 acc. to initial reports[2])
Casualties and losses
5 killed (4 initially captured then killed), 3 wounded none

The Karbala provincial headquarters raid was an infiltration attack carried out on January 20, 2007 by insurgent commandos, with possible Iranian involvement, on the American contingent of the Joint Security Station located within the Iraqi Police headquarters. The assault, which left five American soldiers dead and three wounded, has been called the "boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare" and is furthermore notable for being one of the few instances when militants have actually managed to capture U.S. soldiers.[3][4][5]


Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Karbala province has not seen the same intensity of violence that has wracked other areas of Iraq such as Baghdad and Al Anbar province. Although Karbala has been the site of many attacks, it has largely been free of the spectacular bombings that regularly take place in Baghdad or the heavy urban warfare seen in Fallujah, Mosul, Najaf, Ramadi, and elsewhere. There have been two notable exceptions to this trend: the March 2004 Ashura massacre and the uprising of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army across southern Iraq the following month. Prior to the 20 January raid, only 33 Coalition soldiers had been killed in Karbala province, constituting just over 1% of total coalition fatalities in Iraq.[6]

The raid

The attack was perpetrated by "nine to 12 militants posing as an American security team ... [who] traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles — the type used by U.S. government convoys — had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English. This was denied by the surviving soldiers. According to one Iraqi official, the militant team was led by a blond-haired man. The attack occurred as the U.S. military continued preparations to leave. About 30 U.S. troops were inside the compound at the time.[2]

After being waved through the last of three checkpoints manned by Iraqi security forces at around 17:45, the militants parked their (at least) five SUVs[7] near the city's Provisional Joint Coordination Center (PJCC) main building.[2] The attackers' convoy divided upon arrival, with some vehicles parking at the back of the main building others parking in front. The commandos first used homemade explosive to burn the two Security Vehicles outside. Then they entered the building using fragmentation grenades in an attempt to isolate the two officers. They then stormed into a room the Americans used as a barracks room, attacking with grenades and small arms fire. Once the Soldiers in the room were isolated they proceeded to capture two U.S. soldiers, 1LT Jacob Fritz and CPT Brian Freeman.[8] They pulled two more soldiers, PFC Shawn Falter and SPC Jonathan Chism out of an armored humvee at the entrance. One soldier, PVT Jonathon Millican died and three were wounded when a grenade thrown by insurgents exploded in the barracks room on the first floor of the building. Three U.S. humvees were damaged by separate explosions in the raid.[7] No Iraqi police or soldiers were injured in the raid, as the insurgents specifically targeted the American soldiers in the compound.[8]

At approximately 18:00, the insurgents broke off the attack and left the compound with their prisoners, heading east toward neighbouring Babil province. Shortly after crossing the Euphrates River, the militants, who were then being followed by American attack helicopters, shot their four captives and abandoned five vehicles along with uniforms, equipment, and a rifle.[7] Three soldiers were found later by Iraqi police with gunshot wounds to their chests near Bu-Alwan, a village close to Mahawil. Three were already dead (two handcuffed together in the back of one of the SUVs and the other on the ground) and the fourth showed up at nearby hospital with a gunshot wound to the head. On the day of the attack, the U.S. military reported only that five soldiers were killed while "repelling the attack."[8] The full details of the attack, including the militants' penetration of the PJCC compound and the capture of four of the five soldiers, were not released until a week later.[9]

Four individuals suspected of participating in the raid were detained on January 22 by American troops and Iraqi security forces.[10]

The mastermind behind the attack, Azhar al-Dulaimi, was killed on May 18 by U.S. forces.[11]

Suspected Iranian involvement

According to two unnamed U.S. officials, the Pentagon is examining the possibility that the raid was supported or conducted by Iranians. In a speech on 31 January 2007, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated that Iran was supporting attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq[12] and some Iraqis suspect that the raid may have been perpetrated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps's Qods Force in retaliation for the detention of 5 Iranian officials by U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on 11 January.[13][14]

In response to such speculations, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, "ridiculed evidence the U.S. military claimed to have proving Iranian involvement in planning attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces."[15]

Journalist Bill Roggio has suggested that the attackers may have intended to transfer the captured Americans over the border to Iran.[16]

This raid required specific intelligence, in depth training for the agents to pass as American troops, resources to provide for weapons, vehicles, uniforms, identification, radios and other items needed to successfully carry out the mission. Hezbollah’s Imad Mugniyah executed a similar attack against Israeli forces on the Lebanese border, which initiated the Hezbollah-Israeli war during the summer of 2006…

Mahawil (where abandoned vehicles & the victim’s bodies were found) is in Babil province, about 27 miles directly east of Karbala. While it is impossible to prove, the attackers may have been making a bee-line towards the Iranian border.

The Karbala raid makes sense in light of the U.S. raids on the Iranian diplomatic missions in Baghdad and Irbil, where Iranian Qods Force agents were captured, along with documentation that divulged Iran’s involvement with and support of Shia death squads and al-Qaeda in Iraq. Five Iranians from the Irbil raid are still in U.S. custody, and captured U.S. soldiers would provide for excellent bargaining chips.

IF [sic] it is confirmed that Iran’s Qods Force was responsible, the news that the United States has authorized the death or captured [sic] of Iranian agents inside Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan and Lebanon makes all the more sense.

On July 2, 2007, the U.S. military said that information from captured Hezbollah fighter Ali Moussa Dakdouk established a link between Quds Force and the Karbala raid. Dakdouk worked as a liaison between Quds force and the Shia group that carried out the raid. According to the United States, Dakdouk said that the Shia group "could not have conducted this complex operation without the support and direction of the Quds force."[17]

Other incidents

20 January 2007 was the third-deadliest day of the Iraq War for U.S. troops, with 20 other American soldiers killed throughout Iraq, including 12 in a helicopter crash caused by hostile ground fire[18] north of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate.[19]

See also


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Karbala attackers posed as U.S. military officials". CNN. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  3. Hurst, Steven R.; Qassim Abdul-Zahra (2007-01-26). "4 Troops Abducted, Killed in Iraq Attack". ABC News. AP. Retrieved 2007-01-27. [dead link]
  4. Bill Roggio (2007-01-26). "The Karbala attack and the IRGC". Long War Journal. Retrieved 2011-11-09. "On January 20th, a team of twelve men disguised as U.S. soldiers entered the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, where U.S. soldiers preparing to leave the following morning at 0500hrs closing the JCC for good, attacked and killed five soldiers, and wounded another three. The initial reports indicated the five were killed in the Karbala JCC, however the U.S. military has reported that four of those killed were actually removed from the center, handcuffed, and murdered." 
  5. Bill Roggio (2010-09-10). "Iranian-backed Shia terror group kidnaps US civilian in Baghdad". Long War Journal. Retrieved 2011-11-09. "The attack on the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center was a complex, sophisticated operation. The assault team, led by tactical commander Azhar al Dulaimi, was trained in a mock-up of the center that was built in Iran. The unit had excellent intelligence and received equipment that made them appear to be US soldiers. Some of the members of the assault team are said to have spoken English. This was denied by the Soldiers stationed there." 
  6. "Coalition Deaths by Province". 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Capella, Peter (2007-01-27 (updated 2007-01-28)). "Mahdi: Iraq could be caught in US-Iran crossfire". Middle East Online. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "U.S.: Soldiers abducted in Karbala, killed elsewhere". CNN. AP. 2007-01-26. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  9. "Military confirms 4 soldiers were abducted during attack in Karbala". USA Today. AP. 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  10. 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Inf. Div. Public Affairs (2007-01-25). "Four suspects seized, linked to Karbala attack". Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  11. "US troops kill Iraq raid 'leader'". BBC. 2007-05-21. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  12. "Al-Maliki: Iraq won't be battleground for U.S., Iran". 2007-01-31. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  13. "Iran involvement suspected in Karbala compound attack". 2007-01-31. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  14. Baer, Robert (2007-01-30). "Are the Iranians Out for Revenge?".,8599,1583523,00.html?cnn=yes. Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  15. "US warns Iran over Iraqi insurgency". Guardian Unlimited. London. 2007-02-01.,,2003564,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-10. 
  16. Roggio, Bill (2007-01-26). "The Karbala attack and the IRGC". The Fourth Rail. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  17. "[US links Iran to attack in Iraq]", BBC News, July 2, 2007. Retrieved July 2, 2007.
  18. "U.S.: 4 copter losses due to ground fire". Boston Herald. AP. 2007-02-04. Retrieved 2007-02-04. [dead link]
  19. "Third-deadliest day of war for U.S. troops". MSNBC. AP. 2007-01-21. Retrieved 2007-01-27. 

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