Iraqi Insurgents Defile Graveyard to Hide Weapons Cache

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flames smoke
Flames and smoke erupt as explosive ordnance disposal technicians blow some of the insurgent arms, ordnance, and ammunition unearthed by combat engineers from Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, during Operation Hedgehog in Hit, Iraq, Jan. 7, 2006.

Camp Blue Diamond, Ar Ramadi, Iraq – Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Marines uncovered hundreds of mortars, artillery rounds, rockets and other warheads during the 3-day sweep near the ancient town of Hit in Al Anbar province.

“This was our biggest find to date,” said 1st Lt. Antonio Agnone, the combat engineer platoon leader for Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. “We’ve uncovered numerous, and significant caches the insurgents have hidden in Hit in places where they thought they would have easy access to them.”

In just a few days, Iraqi soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division and Marines under 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), 2nd Marine Division unearthed nearly 500 rockets and artillery and mortar rounds, along with approximately 100 tank rounds and large quantities of rocket propellant, fuses, and blasting caps.

These supplies are the components insurgents commonly use to make improvised explosive devices. A stockpile of assault rifles, ammunition and two IEDs were also discovered. The weapons and ordnance were destroyed.

ordnance found by 1st Bn., 2nd Marines in Hit, Iraq
Some of the ordnance, ammunition, and weapons found by combat engineers of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines in Hit, al Anbar, Iraq during Operation Hedgehog, Jan. 7, 2006.

Iraqi soldiers patrolled the perimeter of the cache sites to keep residents away from the insurgents’ unexploded ordnance and answer their questions concerning the operation.

According to Agnone, what amazed many of his Marines, who are new to the theatre, was the lengths the insurgents would go to hide the caches. In one instance, the insurgents defiled a local cemetery to place their stash.

Acting on a tip, Iraqi Army soldiers and Coalition Forces carefully searched the cemetery and found caches in grave spots adorned with both head and foot markers.

euphrates bank
Combat engineers with Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines struggle up the bank of the Euphrates River carrying artillery shells found in an insurgent cache near Hit, Iraq, Jan. 7, 2006 during Operation Hedgehog. BLT 1/2 is the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), which is conducting counterinsurgency operations in Iraq’s Al Anbar province with the 2nd Marine Division.
document cache
Ordnance, ammunition, weapons displayed so Marines can document their excavation. Found by combat engineers of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines in Hit, Iraq during Operation Hedgehog, Jan. 7, 2006.

“We went over the area very carefully with mine detectors,” explained Agnone, “and that led us to the sites. We were very careful and didn’t disturb any civilian graves in the process.”

In addition to BLT 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its command element, MEU Service Support Group 22, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced). The 22nd MEU is in the Western Euphrates River Valley area conducting counterinsurgency operations under the 2nd Marine Division.

coleman shells
Corporal Matthew G. Coleman, of San Juan, New Mexico, a combat engineer with Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, carefully scoops dirt away from a stack of mortar shells hidden by insurgents Hit, Iraq, and discovered by the Marines during Operation Hedgehog, Jan. 7, 2006. BLT 1/2 is the ground combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), which is conducting counterinsurgency operations in Iraq’s Al Anbar province with the 2nd Marine Division.

Source: USMC

Captain Jeffrey S. Pool is a US Marines Public Affairs Officer, spokesman, writer and photographer based in al Anbar province, Iraq.