Eyewitness Account of Jaisani Attack: Nasser #####
NPR logo Eyewitness Account of Jaisani Attack: Nasser

Eyewitness Account of Jaisani Attack: Nasser

Nasser is a 21-year-old Jaisani resident. She lost her brother and two brothers-in-law in the October attack.

Following is a transcript of her account of what happened:

In our area, we have frequently come under attacks from al-Qaida, but we decided to fight them back until we succeeded in repelling them and kicked them out. We decided to fight them back because they planted IEDs on the roads that we take and around our area. We set up checkpoints that were manned by locals.

My brothers and cousins were among those guarding the area, and they used to take night shifts to protect the area.

We, locals, agreed among ourselves that if the area came under attack, all men — even those who are not on duty — would take up arms and fight.

One night, the checkpoint near our house was attacked and came under gunfire by the Americans. The attacking force took the road usually taken by the Qaida.

We never expected that those were the Americans, because the Americans usually take the main street and pass the safely without being attacked. But that night, they took the road usually taken by terrorists.

The force comprised a number of infantry troops who were landed by a helicopter. There was no vehicles, just infantry. It was dark then and at 1 a.m., they raided the checkpoint. And the locals on guard thought it was al-Qaida attacking, so they shot back. And all people of the village came out and started shooting at the attacking force.

Hearing the shooting outside, my brother, who was sleeping on the roof, took his weapon and went out to join other fighters. But later, he was killed. The locals repelled the attack, and finally, and after Americans sustained heavy casualties, warplanes started to bomb the area.

There were more than 10 helicopters. If one single bullet was fired by the locals, the helicopter would respond by firing some 10 missiles.

The two houses adjacent to ours house were completely demolished. A whole family was killed: the mother, the father, her brothers. My brother was also killed there, too.

Usually, whenever the village came under attack, they would evacuate women and children first, so the village would be solely for the fighters. All women left except for me and my mother. We decided to stay at home. The locals have always repelled similar attacks in the past, but that night my father said, 'We will not leave the house. The fighters will be back soon.'

When we heard the helicopters firing missiles, we thought that they came to our rescue because we have always maintained a good relation with the Americans. And we like the Americans. And when we heard the bombing, we never imagined they were attacking us. It was for the first time we came under attack by the Americans.

We were attacked several times by al-Qaida. First they kidnapped 18 people from the village, including my own brother. And they killed 10 others in another attack, and 26 were killed in this recent attack, including a number of women.

When our village got under attack, usually women and children would go to a nearby village named Sa'diya. This village always provides us with backup and reinforcements.

The battle started with light shooting from the American side at the checkpoint. And thinking it was al-Qaida, our fighters did respond with heavy gunfire killing many Americans. There were many casualties on the American side, so the attacking force asked for air backup and helicopters started bombing the area.

Our fighters were stationed on the roofs of the houses shooting at the Americans. The Americans responded by bombing the houses.

It was only after the helicopters started bombing the houses that we realized they were Americans.

After you found out that it was the Americans, did you continue shooting?

No, we halted the fire, and the American troops withdrew.

[She enlists the names of the victims, including: her brother, Ahmad Nassruddin, who was planning to apply for military college; her brother-in-law Sahib Hussein Ismael, a civilian employee; another brother-in-law, also named Ahmad. She said some of the victims were killed while they were on top of the roofs while others were killed nearby.]

Were there any Iranians or Jaish al Mahdi fighters?

No, there were no Iranians. But because we proved extreme bravery in the fighting, they accused us of bringing Iranian fighters to fight by our side and that they claimed we had brought in Iranian weapons. All our fighters come from our village and not from outside.

No, there were no Iranians, but it is because my uncle was chased and threatened by the Saddam regime. And he was forced to flee to Iran and after the fall, he came back to the village. No more, no less. But they accused him of being Iranian and accused us of sheltering Iranian fighters and bringing in Iranian weapons. We have no contacts with the Iranians nor have we brought any weapons from Iran. We use very unsophisticated weapons.

[She says the attack lasted for a short time, an hour or so.]

When we reported the attack to the American base in Khalis, they said the American troops had nothing to do with it and denied they knew anything about it. They said they were not responsible for it. Some said al-Qaida was to blame. There were many rumors circulating.

But we heard that al-Qaida had paid the Americans to launch this attack.

After my brother got killed, we never came back to our house. We decided to stay at my sister's house, and we brought to live with us my two sisters whose husbands were killed in the attack — lest our house would be attacked again.

Some of the wounded, including my brother, died later. They gathered all the dead and the wounded in the clinic it was 3 o'clock a.m. We left the house and learned later that my brother was injured. And because there was no hospital nearby, the medic at the clinic said some had sustained serious injuries and he couldn't treat them. So people agreed that each man should take two of the wounded to the hospital.

The road from Sadiya to Khalis is very long. We used to take another road to Khalis through Hibhib but that road was blocked by Qaida, and we have to take other long roads to reach the hospital.

Some of the wounded bled to death on their way to the hospital, including my brother and my brother-in-law. And those who sustained minor injuries stayed in the clinic and were taken by their relatives to the hospital in Khalis, and the dead were taken to Najaf. And the convoy was escorted by the National Guards, but we worried about those who stayed behind in the village.

[She says that her sister who lives in Baghdad went with them to Najaf. After hearing what had happened, Grand Ayatollah Sistani donated a plot to bury the dead. They were received by the people and tribe leaders of Najaf. They prayed for the dead. They headed down to Najaf in the morning, and by the afternoon, all the dead were buried. Some of the dead continued to bleed even after the bodies were washed for burial. She says that the skull of her brother-in-law had two bullet holes.]

The bodies were collected and wrapped in blankets before taken to Najaf.