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Grange: Ambush shows change in guerrilla tactics

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange
Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange

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(CNN) -- U.S. troops fought off two simultaneous assaults on military convoys Sunday in northern Iraq, killing 46 attackers, military officials said. Guerrillas -- some of them apparently wearing the black uniforms of the Fedayeen Saddam -- set off improvised explosive devices as the convoys approached, then opened fire from nearby rooftops and alleyways with rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, officials said.

CNN anchor Martin Savidge spoke Sunday with retired Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, now a CNN military analyst, about the tactics used by the guerrillas in the Samarra attacks.

SAVIDGE: I think the first thing that strikes you, from hearing news of this attack, is how bold and audacious it seems to have been on the part of the Iraqi attackers?

GRANGE: Well, very much so. And also, having that sized force to conduct an ambush. As you know, the tactics have been small cells, four to six people, shoot and scoot, you know, disappear, fade into the population to survive. In this case, it was almost a case where they would die for Saddam, especially wearing some type of recognizable uniform.

SAVIDGE: What do you make of that? That they were dressed in a uniform and again gathering in large numbers?

GRANGE: Well, that's the thing. Gathering in large numbers, either to show that they had a force that was different than before, that it's actually a fighting force, not just a bunch of people that vanish and disappear. That they wanted the population, almost, to see them and they were willing to die.

I mean, to take on an ambush like that, realizing that -- even though the weapons they had were still deadly, that's with all the weapons mentioned: improvised explosive devices, small arms, RPGs and mortars is what's been killing Americans to date. But knowing that there's tanks and Bradleys in the convoy, they were willing to take it on and die. It's very unusual tactics and change of what's happened in the past.

SAVIDGE: The fact that there were so many in one place, does that suggest to you that they had advance intelligence that the Americans were passing by?

GRANGE: Well, I can't imagine they were trying to take down a convoy to get the money in this case, because once they, if they were successful, then what do they do? How do they move it? I mean, the response to any convoy ambush is usually a reaction force by ground and air. They wouldn't be able to get away with it.

So, it's almost as if they planned to fight and kill as many Americans as possible just to make a point of it, because I don't see how they could expect to get away, especially the way they were dressed.

SAVIDGE: Well, obviously the U.S. was successful in fighting off the ambush today, but what are likely to be the repercussions? I mean, the Iraqis who are opposed to the presence to U.S. forces are undoubtedly going to learn from whatever mistakes they made.

GRANGE: Absolutely. Just like the GIs have learned to adapt to the tactics of the guerrilla. In this case, with the results that we know of right now, with the number of enemy killed and wounded and captured, the response, the counterambush reaction of the U.S. forces, the security part of the convoy was done exceptionally well; sectors of fire, engaging the enemy at those different places while you are under fire.

So, great response, excellent response to an ambush. They're going to have to -- the enemy would have to adjust in the future, because if they do something else like that, that's playing right into the hands of the Americans' tactics; that's how we want to fight.

SAVIDGE: Quickly, before you go, is there any indication that perhaps U.S. forces may have been aware that something was up and were prepared to respond?

GRANGE: You know, that's a consideration, but then you are taking an undue risk, because it may not have been five Americans wounded, it may have been five Americans killed in that fight. That was a bit of luck there and you don't know the results of how it would turn out. So, I don't think so, I don't think there was advance knowledge.


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