Insurgents Caught

Less than a month ago, the previously secure base housing Fort Benning's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team came under a deadly rocket attack.

One soldier was killed and 15 others wounded in the first attack on Forward Operating Base Hammer since the brigade set up shop there in late March.

On Monday, the alleged ringleader of that insurgent attack, whose name has remained atop the brigade's "most wanted" list since July 11, was apprehended by two brigade units: — B Troop of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, and the Time Sensitive Target team. The raid also netted nine other insurgents in northeast Nahrawan.

Names of the insurgents, including the ringleader, were not made public.

Discovered in the enemy hideout was a videotape showing several insurgents setting up 47 rocket launchers, the majority of which were armed with Iranian 107mm rockets.

The video, according to brigade intelligence officials, provides clear evidence of the extent to which Iraqi insurgents are equipped to launch rockets from the desert at coalition encampments. A section of the video purportedly shows a rocket being fired at FOB Hammer, which serves as headquarters for the 3,800-soldier brigade.

Brigade intelligence, which has been searching for the insurgent leader since the initial attack — there was another attack, from a different location, last Saturday — identified a possible hideout on Monday and sent the TST team and Troop B soldiers to the suspected target site.

"The whole idea was to move covertly to the house so nobody would take off running," said the brigade's battle captain, Capt. Matthew Carman of Allentown, Pa. "They walked a significant distance to the house. Then they brought in the trucks."

Pfc. Doug Jones, who found the "most wanted" insurgent hiding under a bed, described the arrest to Sgt. Natalie Rostek of the brigade's public affairs office.

He said he was clearing the house of people before bringing in bomb-searching dogs to the building. He searched a room that had already been searched once before. While clearing closets, Jones said he saw one of the beds move.

"He must have been shivering a little because I saw the bed just barely move," he said. "I thought it may have been a kid hiding because he was scared."

Jones said he flipped the bed and still didn’t see anything because the insurgent was hiding between a bed and a wall. Jones saw the insurgent’s arm when he put the bed back down.

"I was smiling and I guess that made him smile because he smiled back up at me," Jones explained. "I told him to stand up and then get on his knees. He smiled really big then, like he was happier about this than I was."

While searching the entire house, they found the video.

The brigade, using an unmanned aerial vehicle, had actually located the rocket launchers on the day of the first attack. They were discovered in the northern section of the nearby Besmaya Range Complex. Twelve had been fired at the FOB, one of them killing Sgt. Courtney T. Johnson of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

The rockets, which had not yet been fired, were disarmed by soldiers from the 789th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. No arrests were made at the time.

But, said Capt. Justin Gerkin of the 789th, "this allows for evidence collection to find out who is responsible for the indirect fire attacks on FOB Hammer."

Monday's arrests were the second major success for the 3-1 Cav in just over two weeks.

On July 24, the squadron arrested what they called "a high value individual" with ties to organized crime. He was considered to be one of the leaders in the July 11 attack. He's also accused of murder and kidnapping.