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U.S. News
Lynch kept firing until she ran out of ammo

Thursday, April 03, 2003

By Susan Schmidt and Vernon Loeb, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON -- Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.

he rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch is shown in an image from video shown during a news conference yesterday at Camp As Sayliyah, Central Command Center, Doha, Qatar. More photos from the rescue and from Lynch's hometown of Palestine, W. Va. (U.S. Central Command via AP)

Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting 11 days ago, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn in the southern city of Nasiriyah.

"She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive."

Lynch was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death. No official gave any indication yesterday, however, that Lynch's wounds had been life-threatening.

Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events was still being determined, and further information would emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they say, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard "rumors" of Lynch's heroics but had had no confirmation.

There was no immediate indication whether Lynch's fellow soldiers killed in the ambush were among 11 bodies found by Special Operations forces who rescued Lynch at Saddam Hussein Hospital in Nasiriyah, although U.S. officials said that at least some of the bodies are believed to be those of U.S. servicemen. Two of the bodies were found in the hospital's morgue, and nine were found in shallow graves on the grounds outside.

A total of seven soldiers from the 507th are still listed as missing in action following the ambush. Five others, four men and a woman, were taken captive following the attack.

Video footage of the five has been shown on Iraqi television, along with grisly pictures of at least four soldiers killed in the battle.

Lynch, from Palestine, W.Va., arrived yesterday at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. She was in stable condition, suffering from broken arms and a broken leg, in addition to the gunshot and stab wounds, sources said.

One military officer briefed on her condition said that while Lynch was conscious and able to communicate with the U.S. commandos who rescued her, "she was pretty messed up."

The rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch was recorded by the special ops team using a video camera equipped with a nightscope. A second camera in a reconnaissance aircraft provided real-time overhead video imagery of the operation as it unfolded. (Department of Defense handout via APTN)

One intriguing account of Lynch's 10 days in captivity came from an unidentified Iraqi pharmacist at Saddam Hussein Hospital who told Sky News, a British network, that he had cared for her and frequently heard her crying about wanting to be reunited with her family.

"She said every time, about wanting to go home," said the pharmacist, who was filmed at the hospital wearing a white medical coat over a black T-shirt. "She knew that the American Army and the British were on the other side of the [Euphrates] river in Nasiriyah city. .... She said, 'Maybe this minute the American Army [will] come and get me.'" The only injuries the pharmacist said he was aware of were to Lynch's leg, but there was no way of evaluating his statement.

Lynch's rescue at midnight local time Tuesday was a classic Special Operations raid, with U.S. commandos in Blackhawk helicopters engaging Iraqi forces on their way in and out of the medical compound, defense officials said.

Acting on information from CIA operatives, they said, a Special Operations force of Navy SEALS, Army Rangers and Air Force combat controllers touched down in blacked-out conditions. An AC-130 gunship, able to fire 1,800 rounds a minute from its 25mm cannon, circled overhead, as did a reconnaissance aircraft providing real-time overhead video imagery of the operation as it unfolded.

"There was shooting going in, there was some shooting going out," said one military officer briefed on the operation. "It was not intensive. There was no shooting in the building, but it was hairy, because no one knew what to expect. When they got inside, I don't think there was any resistance. It was fairly abandoned."

Meanwhile, U.S. Marines advanced in Nasiriyah as a diversionary tactic to preoccupy whatever Iraqi forces might still have been in the area.

The officer said Special Operations forces found what looked like a "prototype" Iraqi torture chamber in the hospital's basement, with batteries and metal prods.

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