US Army Major Carter Price meets with Brigadier General Sameed, the commander of the 22nd Battalion, 6th Iraqi Army Division, at the Office of the Martyr Sadr in the Shula neighborhood of northern Gazaliyah in Baghdad on May 15, 2008. The Office of the Martyr Sadr build was taken over by the Iraqi Army after the Mahdi Army used it to conduct and direct attacks. (US Army photo / Specialist Charles W. Gill)
Less than one week after pushing into the northern two-thirds of Sadr City from the walled southern neighborhoods, the Iraqi Army is uncovering substantial weapons caches in the Mahdi Army stronghold. Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to press against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad as the New Baghdad district begins to heat up.
The Iraqi Army raided numerous Mahdi Army weapons caches in Sadr City May 22-23, Multinational Forces Iraq reported. The Mahdi Army has stockpiled weapons throughout the district. Eight of the armor-piercing, Iranian-made explosively formed projectiles have been found along with chlorine poison, eight roadside bombs, and large quantities of explosives, weapons, ammunition, and materials used to make bombs.
Iraqi troops raided a school in Sadr City on May 23 and uncovered a substantial weapons cache. “Two bottles of chlorine poison” were found along with a remote-controlled improvised explosive device, six 155 mm artillery rounds, an artillery warhead, five grenades, two PKC light machine guns and 450 rounds of PKC ammunition, a Katusha rocket launcher, and radios used to remotely detonate roadside bombs.
The largest cache was found by Iraqi soldiers on May 22. The cache consisted of “one explosively formed projectile; one homemade mine; more than 2000 7.62 mm rounds; 393 5.56 mm rounds; one 80 mm rocket-propelled grenade; RPG launchers, warheads and tails; one cannon ball; grenades; spools of wire; blasting caps; AK- 47 rifles; AK-47 and M-16 magazines; two body armor vests; a Kevlar helmet; two radios; and other assorted military equipment.”
Another significant cache seized by Iraqi troops on May 22 contained “seven explosively formed projectiles, five 60 mm mortar rounds, more than a dozen RPGs, hand grenades, a mortar sight, a BKC machine gun and 1,200 BKC rounds, a Kalashnikov rifle and five Kalashnikov magazines, igniters, indicators, command wire, charges, detonators, eight radios and four battery chargers.” A host of smaller caches were found and destroyed.
There has been no fighting reported in Sadr City over the past several days as the Iraqi Army takes up positions in strategic areas around Sadr City. On May 23, the Sadrist movement claimed the Iraqi Army was violating the truce and assaulting and mistreating Iraqis during clearing operations in Sadr City. The Associated Press repeated the claims of Mohannad al Gharawi, who is portrayed as a neutral person sent to Sadr City to monitor the truce. But Gharawi is in fact a senior member of the Sadrist movement.
Raids continue outside Sadr City
As the Iraqi security forces continue to work to secure Sadr City, US and Iraqi forces are pressuring the Mahdi Army in greater Baghdad and beyond. The Sadrist movement has accused the Iraqi military of rounding up more than 400 people during raids in the Amil and Bayaa neighborhoods in southwestern Baghdad.
Brigadier General Qassim Atta confirmed operations were conducted in these neighborhoods but did not indicate how many were detained. The Iraqi Army “arrested wanted suspects and seized several caches of arms and explosives,” Atta said.
Other operations and raids have been carried out in Baghdad over the past several days. Iraqi National Police detained four Mahdi Army fighters in New Baghdad on May 22 and uncovered a weapons cache. A brother of one of the detainees possessed an Iranian passport. On May 23, US troops killed five Mahdi Army fighters in the Shawra area of New Baghdad.
Multiple Mahdi Army weapons caches have been found outside of Sadr City, many of which included Iranian-made weapons. Iraqi troops found four explosively formed projectiles in a large weapons cache in the Bayaa area of the Rashid district on May 22. US troops found another EFP along with RPGs and other weapons the Diyala area of New Baghdad on May 23.
US troops found a large cache that contained “approximately 30 60 mm Iranian mortars with a manufacturing date of 2007,” and other mortars, tubes and bomb-making materials in the Kadamiyah district on May 23. On May 24, US soldiers found an Iranian-made 107 mm rocket in a cache that included 180 mortar rounds.
Outside of Baghdad, US and Iraqi troops captured five Mahdi Army operatives in separate operations. Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a Special Groups financier and weapons smuggler in Az Zubayr, just north of Basrah on May 21. The operative smuggled weapons from Iran into Iraq.
Coalition Special Operations Forces captured four Special Groups operatives in Rashadiyah on May 23. The target was a “Special Groups weapons smuggler accused of bringing explosively-formed penetrators, rockets and other weapons into Diyala Province from Iran” who was also “responsible for multiple attacks on Iraqi Security and Coalition forces using EFPs, rocket-propelled grenades and sniper fire in the Husayniyah area.”