F Co. leads raid on illegal arms market

21 Jun 2003 | Sgt. Rob Henderson

Marines of F Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines led a raid on a suspected arms market June 21.

Intelligence reports indicated vendors at the Saraj Market, located a couple of miles southeast of F Company's position, were actively buying and selling prohibited weapons after the June 14 deadline for weapons amnesty established by coalition forces.

"Our mission was to cordon off the market and conduct a search in order to deny the ability of vendors to sell weapons in the market area," said Ballston Spa, N.J. native Maj. Christopher J. Douglas, F Company commander.

That morning, 226 Marines in 22 vehicles left Fox Company's position for the short drive to the market.  As a UH-1 Huey flew over the market to distract the patrons, Marines debarked and set up a hasty perimeter to contain the Iraqis within the market.

"The goal was to have every avenue of approach sealed to prevent any arms dealers from escaping," said Gunnery Sgt. Francis Bergeron, assistant operations chief for 2/25.

As each Iraqi either entered or exited the concertina wire that isolated the market, they were searched by Marines for weapons, drugs or large amounts of money.  The Marines avoided searching women, because it is a crime for a man to touch a woman he is not married to under Islamic law. 

"With eight Marines at each security post, the Marines were effective," said Bergeron.  "They were in control, professional and courteous to the Iraqis they had to search."

While the security detachment secured the perimeter, the Marines swept through the entire market, accompanied by An Nasiriya police officers, searching through open businesses for contraband. 

"The Marines performed very well," said Douglas.  "We believe the arms dealers were tipped off to our raid, and accordingly, they fled the area with their weapons before we had a chance to apprehend them." 

The two-hour raid netted one unregistered AK-47 rifle and hundreds of rounds of illegal munitions.  The Marines arrested one man who is suspected of possessing illegal firearms.

"Although we didn't capture a large amount of weapons, we did show the Iraqis in the market that we are still here," said Douglas.  "Now the arms dealers, who we know are operating illegally in that area, know we can be there in force in a matter of minutes.  Hopefully that will provide some deterrence."

In the future, Fox Company Marines will continue to show a presence in the market area with the hopes of catching arms dealers before they can distribute illegal firearms, according to Douglas.

A new law, established June 15, in An Nasiriya allows each adult male in a household to possess one firearm, not to exceed the size on an AK-47, as long as the weapon is registered with the police department.  Anything larger is outlawed, and any weapon not registered with the police can be confiscated.