The Targeted Sniper Attack

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The insurgent's best snipers are employed in carefully planned attacks against somewhat fixed targets, such as a soldier at a guard post, security personnel outside a public building, or a GI manning a guard tower at a U.S. base.

We know that these operations involve their finest shooters because with uniformity, these are one-shot kills—usually head shots—carefully placed to bypass the victim's body armor. These usually are "shoot and scoot" attacks, but if the sniper's first shot misses he may linger for a second shot. This pattern is clear with quite a number of incidents. In some instances, the sniper has been supported by a video cameraman who recorded the attack for later broadcast on Arab television or insurgent Web sites.

Typical of these targeted sniper attacks were two incidents in Ramadi on 8 and 17 August 2004, which each killed a U.S. Marine. In both instances, they were manning a well-established observation post, and the victim was killed with a single shot to the head. The second victim was atop a seven-story building, not a very simple shot. The earlier victim, at Outpost Ghetto, was safely behind a 5-foot sandbag wall when he paused momentarily at a narrow opening to speak to a fellow Marine. That's al] it took.

To succeed, such deliberate attacks are preceded by reconnaissance and surveillance to confirm the target's location, select FFPs, and determine stalking and cscape routes. The best counter, it appears, is tactical awareness of this recon/surveillance stage and being alert to the presence of suspicious observers—if they're clumsy enough to appear suspicious.

Because these deliberate attack snipers are not committed to a particular town or neighborhood, I've dubbed them "floaters" who probably are centrally controlled by regional or city-level insurgent leaders.

COL'N'I LKSNIPIMG IN I R A Q 491

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