http://news.soc.mil/releases/News%20Archive/2007/August/070817-03.html DATE POSTED: AUGUST 17, 2007 Gunfight ends with release of hostages, two insurgents dead By Tech. Sgt. Eric M. Grill CJSOTF-AP Public Affairs TAJI, Iraq (Courtesy of CJSOTF-AP PAO, Aug. 17, 2007) After returning from a family members funeral, four women and six small children were kidnapped by armed men wearing ski masks on a Baghdad street on May 1. The women and children were taken after having to witness the execution of their male family members. They were held for more than a months time, during which the women endured daily rapings and beatings and were constantly threatened with beheading, one of the women later said in a statement given to U.S. Special Forces. On June 1, their ordeal came to an end as Iraqi Security Forces and a U.S. Special Forces team freed the hostages during an air assault raid that targeted an al Qaeda in Iraq kidnapping cell south of Balad. The operation, called Operation Falkirk, was a combined operation conducted with U.S. Special Forces Soldiers and Iraqi Army Scouts to locate and detain suspected terrorists in Balad with ties to the kidnapping of two U.S. Soldiers taken captive after their combat patrol was ambushed May 12. The raid resulted in a sustained firefight that left one U.S. Special Forces Soldier wounded, two insurgents dead, and the primary target of the operation captured and seriously wounded. Were always prepared for a gunfight, a team sergeant stated. Operation Falkirk turned out to be much more than we originally planned for, and handed out a challenge. During the operation, the Special Forces team and their Iraqi counterparts conducted the late-night air assault against three remote houses reportedly sheltering the terrorist group. Shortly after beginning the assault, the team came under heavy, small-arms fire from terrorists inside one of the houses. One Special Forces Soldier was hit and evacuated. Other members of the team immediately assaulted the house and overwhelmed the terrorists. When the gunfire ended, two insurgents were dead, one of them in the stairwell leading to the roof where the women and children were discovered, the team sergeant said. At that time, the women and children were believed to be the family members of the insurgents, not victims of mental and physical abuse by their captors. As the women and children were being escorted down from the roof, the sergeant said he noticed something didnt seem right. (The women and children) had to step over one of the dead insurgents to go down, he said. There was no reaction by any of the women or the children as they moved passed. Normally, the wife and children will collectively get hysterical over a dead family member, but not one word was uttered. The other insurgent was also in open view as they proceeded through the house. But again, the sergeant said, the women and children gave no reaction. U.S. Special Forces team members began questioning some of the women, but soon received word that the house was wired with explosives. The team immediately evacuated everyone from the house. During the evacuation, the team received word that another terrorist had fled the area on foot during the initial assault. The fleeing insurgent had entered an adjacent canal and was hiding in thick reeds several hundred meters from the original objective. Members of the Special Forces team, together with Iraqi soldiers, entered the canal in pursuit of the fleeing terrorist. In chest-deep water, a Special Forces sergeant eventually located the hiding terrorist. The terrorist then lunged at the sergeant and was shot in the chest by an Iraqi Scout providing security for the sergeant. The assault force immediately pulled the individual from the water and rendered first-aid, saving his life. As it turned out, the male hiding along the river bank was the main person we were after and the leader of the terrorist cell, the team sergeant said. When the assault force returned to the target house, they discovered the women and children had run away, stated the team sergeant. It wasnt known until the following morning, when local villagers thanked the team for freeing the captives, that the women and children had been held hostage for more than a month. Had the team known at the time that they were victims, they would have gone out of their way to do more for them that night, the sergeant emphasized. Knowing the status of the victims now, he said, It was no surprise then that the women fled the objective along with their children at first opportunity. Upon removing this specific terrorist cell from the area, the team began to receive numerous reports from local Iraqis that detailed the extent of this groups activities, the sergeant further relayed. The group was active for more than two years and responsible for the murder of dozens of innocent Iraqis, including women, children, and infants. They were also reportedly responsible for improvised explosive device activities and the murder and beheading of at least 20 Iraqi Police. Operation Falkirk was one of those operations that really tested us, the sergeant stressed. We fought our way in through heavy enemy gunfire and grenades. We saved the life of an operator in the gunfight, we chased down and captured the (primary target), and ultimately rescued ten hostages. Although the original mission of Operation Falkirk had a considerably different objective, the Iraqi forces and the U.S Special Forces team said they are proud of the mission they were a part of. We are just happy to know that we did things right that night by allowing families to re-unite with their loved ones, saving the life of a teammate, and executing another well planned operation, the sergeant stated with pride.