Iraqi Army clashes with Mahdi Army in eastern Baghdad
Iraqi Special Operations Forces prepare for a mission near Amarah to disrupt weapons smuggling and trafficking from Iran and help to set the condition for broader stability in the region. (US Navy photo / Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel R. Mennuto)
Iraqi and Coalition security forces continue to press operations against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad. Iraqi security forces clashed with the Mahdi Army in eastern Baghdad as raids in search of Mahdi Army weapons caches continue in Sadr city and throughout Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces killed 10 Mahdi Army fighters in eastern Baghdad early today, Multinational Forces Iraq reported in a press release. Another Mahdi Army fighter was wounded and subsequently captured. The exact location of the clash has not been given. The US military said the fight occurred in eastern Baghdad, which could refer to either Sadr City or New Baghdad, which is also a Mahdi Army stronghold.
Iraqi Special Operations Forces also captured three of the Iranian-trained Special Groups operatives during raids in Baghdad. One of the operatives helped purchase, distribute, and employ rockets, mortars, and roadside bombs used against Iraqi and US forces. The two other operatives are behind the "kidnapping, torturing and killing Iraqi citizens and forcing them out of their homes."
US and Iraqi forces believe they have put a major dent in the manpower of the Special Groups over the past year. "In partnership with Iraqi Security Forces, Multinational Division Baghdad has detained 418 AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] and 450 SG [Special Groups] operatives," said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad, in an e-mail to The Long War Journal.
A significant percentage of those captured are high-value targets. "Operatives range from Senior Leaders, to Media Experts to Attack Coordinators, Facilitators and Operators who actively and indiscriminately attack Iraqi Civilians," Stover said. "Approximately one third of these captured come from the leadership ranks of their respective cells. Approximately two thirds are other operatives that are critical to the day-to-day conduct of extremist attack planning & execution."
Dismantling the Mahdi Army caches in Sadr City
The Iraqi Army is also continuing its search for Mahdi Army weapons caches inside Sadr City. Fifty-nine of the deadly Iranian-made roadside bombs known as explosively formed projectiles or EFPs have been seized inside Sadr City since May 24.
Multinational Forces Iraq varies the classification of EFPs between medium and heavy weapons, depending on the configuration. "They are the number one killer of our Soldiers. Since December 19, 2007 we have lost 66 American Heroes; 41 to IEDs," Stover said. "The good news is attack levels have gone down again - a direct tribute to the blood, sweat and sacrifice of the American and Iraqi Soldier."
The raids are impacting the Mahdi Army's ability to conduct future operations in Sadr City, Stover stated. The seizure of caches also impacts the Mahdi Army's ability to resupply and may expose the efforts. "To bring in resupply puts the weapons and munitions transportation, financiers, and criminal leadership networks at risk of being caught by ISF or Coalition Forces," said Stover.
The Iraqi Army has surged forces into Sadr City since the military moved into the Mahdi Army stronghold on May 20. Elements from eight Iraqi Army brigades have been identified as operating inside Sadr City by The Long War Journal.
Iraqi Army units working inside Sadr City:
1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division
2nd Battalion, 34th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division
4th Battalion, 34th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division
2nd Battalion, 36th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division
39th Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division
38th Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division
42nd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division
44th Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division
49th Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division