- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

CAMP NEW JERSEY, Kuwait, March 23 (UPI) — One American paratrooper was killed and 12 were wounded in a grenade attack on a command tent of the 101st Airborne division, allegedly a "fragging" incident by one of their own comrades in arms, Joint Command officials confirmed Sunday.

The incident, in the rear base tents of Camp Pennsylvania, is still under investigation and the suspect soldier is being held, Joint Command officials told United Press International. The suspect was identified as Sgt. Asan Akbar, who was with an engineering unit attached to the First Brigade of the 101st Airborne.

"One man from the unit is in custody and investigations are continuing," a U.S. military spokesman said. "This incident is no longer considered to have been a terrorist attack by some external force."

One civilian witness on the scene, who had helped to treat the wounded, said that two grenades were thrown into two tents in the staff quarters of the First Brigade in the 101st division and that at least four soldiers had been seriously injured.

Other reports said the soldier in custody is a Muslim who had been deeply unhappy about the war against Iraq and that there had for some time been considerable friction between him and other soldiers in his unit.

"Resentment, I guess," one U.S. military spokesman said when asked what the motive of the attack might have been.

In Washington, a source told UPI the First Brigade of the 101st had been issued ammunition in advance of deployment. The suspect tossed one grenade into the command tent, fatally injuring an intelligence officer, threw another grenade into a second tent, and then threw a third into the tent where the brigade commander was sleeping, the source said. The source said the command sergeant major in the tent smelled the fuze burning and threw the commander onto the floor, but the grenade failed to explode. After the first grenade exploded the suspect opened fire with his M-16 rifle and then ran, the source said. The Pentagon said it could not confirm the details.

"Fragging," a term from the Vietnam War, usually has meant the deliberate killing of officers or sergeants by troops under their command, usually by rolling a fragmentation grenade into their quarters.

In Vietnam, it was a sign of very low morale during an unpopular war and was often associated with drug use. But in Kuwait, U.S. troop morale has been high, and narcotics are generally not seen as a problem in the modern U.S. army.

The closely guarded camp, stretching over nearly 20 square miles, lies some 15 miles outside Kuwait City. The vast tented encampments, called Camp Pennsylvania and Camp New Jersey, were once home to over 120,000 troops and are now increasingly vacant with more troops deployed to Iraq.

The 101st Airborne is one of the few combat units which still has many troops in Kuwait. The 3rd Infantry Division, the U.S. Marines and the British troops are all now deep inside Iraq, having packed their tents and left Kuwait earlier in the week.

Some units of the 101st Division, including the whole of its 3rd Brigade, joined the drive on Baghdad Friday. The remainder are on alert for other missions, possibly to fly north to the Kurdish-held regions of northern Iraq or for helicopter-borne assaults to seize airports or other strategic points.

The Joint Command has standing orders for stiff security measures in the camps and training grounds of the 230,000 coalition troops, including naval patrols against suicide boat attacks like the one which damaged the USS Cole in Aden Harbor, Yemen, in October 2001.




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