MARGARET WARNER: So, now how did the Iraqi government or the local governor get wind of this? And how did the battle actually unfold?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: According to officials that we've spoken to, this group had been infiltrated as many as 10 days before this event, and they suspected something was up. And they launched a preemptive attack of some sort on the group.
They were initially repelled, the Iraqi security forces, overwhelmed by the sophistication of the militant group and the weapons they had, as well as their level of organization. They ultimately called for Iraqi and U.S. support.
That's when the helicopters came. One of them was shot down. The U.S. possibly sensing that this was a very, very well-armed group, well-organized group, at that point, according to Iraqi officials, called for ground support, armored vehicles, tanks, artillery perhaps, and definitely air strikes with fighter jets.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you said this was a Shiite cult or group, yet the governor was quoted as having said yesterday, well, Sunnis were actually -- Sunni fighters were deeply involved. Have you been able to unravel that?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: We've had a difficult time being able to unravel that, and I think you make a really good point. These reports are preliminary, and we should be cautious.
At this point, because of the sensitivity of what's happening in Iraq, and because of our inability to get direct access to certain locales, we're not exactly sure. The government definitely has a motive, if they were, in fact, Sunni insurgents, in saying that they weren't Sunni insurgents, because that might prompt an escalation of the ongoing sectarian civil war.
MARGARET WARNER: Najaf was actually turned over to Iraqi security officials in December. What do U.S. and Iraqi officials, now that you've spoken to, think this incident says, and the need to call in the U.S. forces yesterday, about the ability of Iraqi security forces to handle security on their own?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: U.S. officials have been very hush about this particular incident. They released a press release finally today in which they praised the Iraqi security forces, saying that they fought hard and they fought fiercely against this militant group.
Now, from what we understand, however, the local Iraqi security forces were being routed pretty much, were being beaten, until they called for support from a nearby province, the famed Scorpion Brigade in the province of Babil.
They came, and they're known as sort of a rapid reaction SWAT team, and they helped turn the tide of the battle. And according to every Iraqi official that we talked to, really what changed the tide of the battle was the U.S. air support, the air strikes.