Soldiers from Company A, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division set concrete barriers in place in the surroundings of the southern portion of the Sadr City district of Baghdad May 3. (US Army photo/Specialist Joseph Rivera Rebolledo)
US and Iraqi forces have reported heavy fighting during multiple engagements in Sadr City and the surrounding districts. Nineteen Mahdi Army fighters have been killed and nine were captured during clashes and raids in Baghdad.
US and Iraqi troops and US air weapons teams killed 17 Mahdi Army fighters during a series of engagements in the Baghdad districts of Sadr City, New Baghdad, Adhamiyah, Kadhamiyah, and the Taji Qada northwest of Baghdad.
Many of the Mahdi Army fighters were killed as they attacked barrier emplacement teams and planted roadside bombs in Sadr City on the night of May 7 and the morning of May 8. US Special Forces units killed an additional two Mahdi Army fighters as the US teams were providing security for engineers “making safety infrastructure improvements in Sadr City.”
The US and Iraqi military have been constructing concrete barriers around the southern third of Sadr City to cut off the Mahdi Army from the area and provide security and humanitarian assistance. The US military has described the barrier as a “magnet” for Mahdi Army attacks as they seek to stop the construction effort.
A total of 539 Mahdi Army fighters have been confirmed killed in and around Sadr City since March 25, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal.
US and Iraqi troops also captured nine Mahdi Army fighters during raids and operations in Baghdad. Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured seven Special Groups operatives, the Iranian-backed elements that are a subset of the Mahdi Army, during a targeted raid inside Sadr City. The Iraqi special forces teams went after a cell behind the importation and use of the deadly explosively formed penetrator roadside bombs against US forces as well as the firing of mortars and rockets into the International Zone.
The Special Groups cell was also using mosques as weapons caches, prisons, and command and control centers for their operations. “Some of the reported uses of mosques by these Special Groups criminals include: as headquarters for operations, as holding facilities for their kidnapping victims, as interrogation places for captured Sons of Iraq, and as launching points for their attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces,” Multinational forces Iraq reported.
US soldiers captured “a suspected criminal linked to a foiled explosively formed penetrator attack” in the Fadailliyah neighborhood in New Baghdad (number 35 on the map). Another “criminal” was captured in the Taji Qada or county) in northwestern Baghdad province.
Sadr’s radio station is shut down
The Iraqi government ordered that the Al Ahad radio station, a news outlet for Sadr’s political movement, be shut down. “An Iraqi-U.S. force stopped Al Ahad radio station’s broadcast, according to a memo that carried Premier Nouri al-Maliki’s signature,” Abid Abu Zahra told Voices of Iraq.
The fighting may intensify over the next several days. The closing down of Sadr’s newspaper in the spring of 2004 partially fueled the first Mahdi Army uprising. Iraqi soldiers also warned residents to evacuate their homes in the southeastern section of Sadr City. It is unclear if the affected residents are in the neighborhoods inside the concrete barriers or outside the wall.
See US, Iraqi forces kill 18 Mahdi fighters during clashes, raids in Baghdad for more background on the recent fighting in Baghdad.