Iraq Attacks Bold, Better Planned

Recently, militants in Iraq did something unusual: they mounted a large-scale military-style attack on a U.S. Marine base guarding Iraq's western border with Syria.

The Marines won the battle, but it was not easy, reports CBS National Security Correspondent David Martin.

Very little remained of a fire truck used by insurgents in one of the boldest attacks yet on American forces. It happened last week at a Marine outpost on the Syrian border. In a satellite phone interview, Cpl. Anthony Fink said he'd never seen an attack like it.

"The only ones I'd ever seen out here were just like random hits from mortar rounds," says Fink. "This is the most highly organized attack that I've ever seen out here."

A suicide bomber driving a dump truck filled with explosives tried to blast his way through the camp's defenses. Cpl. Joshua Butler opened fire from a guard tower with his machine gun. The truck veered off and exploded, knocking Butler down.

"I got back up," says Butler. "There was a big wall of white smoke.

"I couldn't really see anything. I could hear another truck coming. A red fire truck parted the smoke."

It was a second suicide truck bomb, which Lt. Col. Tim Mundy says was deliberately following in the wake of the dump truck.

"What I believe the terrorists were trying to do was run the dump truck as a kind of a breeching tool, you know, to knock a hole in the wall (and) follow that up with the fire truck which was intended to go through and detonate somewhere on the inside of the camp," says Mundy.

Butler opened fire again and the truck exploded short of the wall, but the attack wasn't over. Insurgents hiding in a nearby building opened fire on Fink's bunker. Fink and another Marine knocked out the insurgents with anti-tank rockets, but to do so they had to leave the shelter of their bunker.

"We stepped outside of the bunker because we couldn't fire from inside the bunker just because the backflash would injure the Marines inside," Fink says.

Followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed credit for the attack which Capt. Frank Diorio believes was a daring attempt to score a symbolic victory.

"They were intending to try to get into the base and just completely destroy as much as they can," says Diorio.

Earlier this month, Zarqawi's followers mounted another well-organized assault, that time on Abu Ghraib prison. Both attacks failed, but in the midst of all the talk about bringing U.S. troops home, they stand as reminders of just how fearless, ruthless and cunning the enemy is.

  • Jaime Holguin

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