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Operation Tobruk (UK)

November 28, 2004 -

More than 700 soldiers in 116 vehicles, including 42 Warriors, began forming at Camp Dogwood at 10pm on Thursday. The 500 men of the Black Watch were joined by Royal Marines, Welsh Guards and around 15 Iraqi special forces. The raid began with a unit of Scimitar light tanks from the Queen's Dragoon Guards driving north as a decoy for any watching rebels. At 1.40am the main force raced 8km east across the desert to cross the Euphrates, then turned north over a canal to surround the riverside village. The area of sprawling luxury compounds was dubbed "Millionaire's Row" because it was home to members of Saddam's privileged elite, including key figures in the Republican Guard and the Mukhabarat secret police.

The column entered the village, sealing off exit roads and then descending on key targets. The 25-tonne Warrior vehicles smashed through boundary walls and disgorged troops wearing night-vision goggles, who used sledgehammers to break down doors and threw "flash-bang" grenades to disorientate their occupants. The first assault team, codenamed Bravo Three Zero, smashed their way into a mosque. Finding nothing there, they sprinted to a farm, leaping barbed wire fencing to storm the house. Among the five men they arrested was a suspect designated "Bravo One", believed to be a rebel leader behind a string of attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces. All along Millionaires' Row soldiers were pulling suspects from buildings, blindfolding and plastic-cuffing them and leading them away for questioning by military police and intelligence officers in a rapidly-established interrogation centre. Throughout the raid, American Cobra assault helicopters and an AC130 Hercules gunship circled overhead, while a British Puma helicopter using night-vision equipment watched for suspects trying to flee the village. As dawn broke, a Black Watch piper marched through the village, adding the traditional strains to the rumbling of vehicles and the drone of the helicopters overhead. Of the 100 Iraqi men arrested, most were released but 26 were driven back to Camp Dogwood for further interrogation.

American Marines launched simultaneous raids on nearby villages in an operation co-ordinated with the US 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was based further to the east in Babil province, south of Baghdad. The sweeps were part of a larger offensive codenamed Plymouth Rock which began on Tuesday with the detention of 32 suspected rebels in a raid on the town of Jabella.

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