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Families Sue Iran Over 2007 Karbala Attack

(CN) - The families of three U.S. soldiers kidnapped, tortured and killed in a Jan. 20, 2007, ambush in Karbala filed a federal complaint in Washington, D.C., against the Iranian government and military proxies.

The March 30 complaint vividly describes how the attack began when "a group of SUVs entered the entry control point of the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center."

"The SUVs had been modified with false antennas to give the impression that they were American military vehicles," the complaint states. "The attackers within these SUVs spoke English, wore United States Army combat uniforms, and had U.S. identification cards. Iraqi Police permitted the attackers past the checkpoint."

It was there that "several of the attackers" left their vehicles to speak to guards Shawn Falter and Johnathan Chism, two of the men whose families are suing the Iranians, according to the complaint.

"As they passed Falter, the last attacker turned and shot Falter from behind while another shot Chism," the complaint states. "Both were taken wounded but alive, and the medical autopsy reports and other evidence indicate that they resisted to the best of their abilities."

The insurgents made their way inside the center's office two capture two other men, including Jacob Fritz.

Press accounts of the attack at the time suggested Iranian involvement.

Seventeen family members of the three men, led by mother Noala Fritz, noted in their complaint that a witness reported the use of Iranian rifles.

"The attackers' SUV convoy, with their captives, headed east toward the Iranian border," the complaint states. "The convoy approached an Iraqi Army checkpoint north of Al-Mahawil, Iraq, approximately 27 miles east of Karbala, which did not allow the convoy to pass freely.

Though the SUVs and the attackers escaped after a pursuit by the Iraqi Army, several Iraqis attempting to facilitate the convoy's passage were detained."

One of these men was linked to the political wing of the Mahdi Army, Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militia, according to the complaint.

In March 2007, the U.S. military captured three men in connection with the Karbala attack, including a Hezbollah operative.

The families seek $10 million for nine claims under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Torture Victims Protections Act, and other statutes.

They are represented by Washington-based attorney Steven Perles of the Perles Law Firm.

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