US, Iraqi forces kill 30 Iranian-backed Special Groups operatives
Raid in Sadr City the latest in a series of strikes against the Qods Force front
Iraqi and US security forces maintain the pressure on the Shia terror groups while continuing the hunt for al Qaeda in Iraq. A joint Iraqi and US force conducted a raid inside Sadr City on Wednesday, killing 30 members of the Iranian-backed Special Groups cells and capturing 12. The strike force was targeting a "cell of a Special Groups terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq into Iran for terrorist training," according to the Multinational Forces Iraq press release.
"The targeted individual in last night's raid acts as a proxy between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force and the Iraqi EFP network," and "assists with the facilitation of weapons and EFP shipments into Iraq as well as the transfer of militant extremists to Iran for training." Two Special Groups operatives were killed and 12 captured during the initial raid, and Coalition air power was called in to strike at a large group of fighters moving in "on foot attempting an assault on the ground forces." Thirty Special Groups fighters, who are closely affiliated with the "rogue Mahdi Army" factions, were estimated to be killed in the airstrike.
The raid in Baghdad was driven by intelligence gained over the past several months. Multinational Forces Iraq stated that today's raid is the latest in "a series of coordinated operations efforts that began with the raid in al Amarah in June." The June operation in Amarah targeted the Qazali Network, which is now referred to as being part of the Special Groups network, along with the Sheibani Network and elements of the rogue Mahdi Army. Over 20 members of the Qazali network were killed, six wounded, and one captured in the Amarah raid.
Today's raid in Sadr City is but the latest in a series of operations against the Iranian-backed Shia terror groups over the past several days. On August 4, 18 Special Groups operatives were captured and four killed during an early morning raid in Qasirin. Also on August 4, the Iraqi Army captured a Mahdi Army recruiter and organizer operating in Najaf. "The alleged rogue JAM [Jaysh al-Madhi or Mahdi Army] insurgent is suspected of using local charities as a front to screen and recruit individuals by offering them $500 to emplace IEDs," the Multinational Forces Iraq press release noted. "He is also suspected of facilitating cross-border training, garnering financial support, and transporting equipment and weapons (to include explosively formed penetrators and improvised explosive devices) with Persian militant groups to be used against Iraqi and Coalition Forces." US airstrikes on a Mahdi Army rocket site in the outskirts of Diwaniyah killed three members of the rocket cell.
On August 6, Iraqi Special Operations Forces raid in the Amil neighborhood of Baghdad resulted in the capture of eight rogue Mahdi Army fighters. Another was killed in a follow-on airstrike.
On August 5, US paratroopers captured a Mahdi Army company commander and five of his operatives during a raid in Musiyyib in northern Babil province. On the same day, Iraqi and US security forces captured a Mahdi Army battalion commander in Baghdad who "is believed to command five companies of terrorists who conduct improvised explosive device, suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and mortar attacks against Iraqi Forces in the area."
Two other major raids against the Special Groups and Mahdi Army occurred over the past month. On July 27, US and Iraqi forces killed 17 members of the rogue Mahdi Army during a raid in Karbala. On June 30, a raid in Sadr City resulted in 26 Special Groups operatives killed and 17 captured.
Multinational Forces Iraq and the Iraqi military have intensified the attacks on the Special Groups and the Iranian-supported elements of Mahdi Army since Gen. David Petraeus briefed on the nature of the network on April 26, 2007.
The US subsequently captured Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative with close links to Iran's Qods Force. Daqduq is a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah, who has commanded both a Hezbollah special operations unit and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's security detail. Daqduq admitted to establishing the Special Groups network along the lines of Hezbollah, at the behest of Iran's Qods Force. The Special Groups cells are essentially the Iraqi version of Hezbollah.