By Tech. Sgt. Joel Langton, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 11, 2008 - Three buildings that had served as an al Qaeda detention and torture facility were destroyed yesterday by a U.S. military bomber. A B-1B Lancer bomber used six 500-pound, global positioning system-guided bombs to level the compound located in Zambraniyah, a village south of Baghdad, according to officials.
"The precise targeting, synchronized employment and focused effects that eliminated these facilities demonstrate the outstanding capability our integrated ground and air team brings to this fight every day," said U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Gass, commander of 379th Expeditionary Operations Group.
The targeted compound consisted of three main buildings along with several smaller shelters. It was apparent that terrorists had used the facility as a place to hold and torture captives, officials noted, citing a post-attack discovery of handcuffs attached to walls -- several of which were blood-splattered -- and bare wires plugged into nearby electrical outlets.
The villagers began standing up to al Qaeda terrorists a little more than a month ago, officials said.
The joint operation featured U.S. and Iraqi ground forces, as well as American military air assets, officials said. A concerned local citizens group also helped provide security during the operation.
U.S. soldiers found several interrogation manuals in the compound after the air strike.
"This (air strike) removes the last remnants of al Qaeda from this area," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Solomon, 6th Squadron, 8th U.S. Cavalry, commander.
Aubid Abdalla was kidnapped and held for 15 days in the now-destroyed al Qaeda prison, but later escaped. He said he witnessed the deaths of a young boy and an old man during his captivity and that it was a new day for the village as he looked into the bomb's craters.
"We all feel good," Abdalla, a former Iraqi Army intelligence officer, said. "It's a dark past that is gone."
Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Aton said he was glad he played a role in the destruction of the al Qaeda jail and torture facility. "It was great to be part of this," Aton, a controller who assisted in coordinating the path of the B-1's precision-guided munitions, said. "You can tell the people were happy to have this place gone, and it was awesome to make a difference for them."
The mission's objective was twofold, explained Air Force Lt. Col. John Nichols, 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron director of operations and coordinator of the sortie. First, to destroy facilities used to illegally detain, falsely convict, and torture innocent Iraqi civilians; second, to bring closure to friends and families of the victims.
"Words can never replace the loss many Iraqi families suffered, but we're honored to have been part of a mission to help rid Iraq of al Qaeda operatives," Nichols said.
The successful mission also "strengthens and reminds the local leadership and Iraqi people that we are dedicated to the elimination of al Qaeda in Iraq," the colonel added.
(Langton is assigned to U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs. Air Force 2nd Lt. Tania Bryan, also attached to AFCENT, contributed to this report.)