Mahdi Army takes a hit in Baghdad, Basrah
US Army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division guard construction of a concrete wall running through the Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Baghdad, on Sunday, May 4, 2008. AP Photo.
Clashes between the Mahdi Army and US and Iraqi forces continued in Baghdad over the weekend as efforts to complete the security barriers separating the southern portion of Sadr City from the Mahdi Army-controlled north. The US military has moved another battalion of Strykers into the Sadr City. In the South, Iraqi troops cleared another militia-controlled neighborhood in Basrah.
US and Iraqi forces have killed 18 Mahdi Army fighters in Sadr City and New Baghdad since the afternoon of May 3. Nine Mahdi Army fighters were killed in Sadr City and northern and eastern Baghdad during the nighttime and early morning hours of May 4-5 after attacking US forces, planting roadside bombs, or preparing to launch mortars and rockets.
US soldiers killed four more Mahdi Army fighters in the eastern district of New Baghdad after coming under attack on May 4. And US troops killed five more Mahdi Army fighters in Sadr City as they attempted to stop the barrier from being built late May 3 and early May 4. No US soldiers were reported killed in any of the incidents.
US and Iraqi forces have inflicted heavy casualties on the Mahdi Army in Sadr City and surrounding neighborhoods since the fighting broke out in Baghdad on March 25. According to US and Iraqi reports compiled by The Long War Journal, 502 Mahdi Army fighters have been killed in and around Sadr City. These numbers do not include Mahdi Army fighters who may have died after being wounded in the fighting.
With heavy fighting inside Sadr City, the US military is beefing up its forces in the area. Multinational Forces Iraq has moved an additional battalion to the Sadr City region over the past several days. The 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division has moved from northwestern Baghdad province into the Sadr City area over the past week. This is the ninth US battalion known to be operating inside Sadr City. Two Iraqi Army brigades and a National Police brigade are also operating inside Sadr City.
Raids on the Iranian-backed Special Groups
US and Iraqi special forces teams have renewed their raids against the Special Groups, the Iranian-backed elements of the Mahdi Army. Ten Special Groups leaders and operatives have been captured during raids in Baghdad and Hillah since May 2.
On May 4, Coalition special forces captured two Special Groups operatives, including the main target, in the Rashid district in Baghdad. The main target was a commander who was "wanted for facilitating the import of Iranian-made munitions into Iraq" as well as directing mortar and rocket attacks and operating safe houses for his operatives.
Iraqi special forces conducted two raids -- one in Hillah and one in Baghdad -- on May 2. The Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics team captured two men "charged with conducting a series of attacks against a Coalition forces base with indirect fire weapons." Four associates were also captured during the raids.
Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a "mid-level Special Groups leader" and an associate during a raid in Baghdad on May 2. The Special Groups leader led a 50-man company that conducted mortar and rocket attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces. The commander also directed kidnappings and murders.
Iraqi troops clear another neighborhood in Basrah
As operations against the Mahdi Army continue in Baghdad, Iraqi security forces press the offensive in Basrah. Soldiers from Quick Reaction Force 1 cleared the Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhood of Al Latif.
"The clearing of Al Latif resulted in several cache discoveries, including dozens of automatic weapons, mortars and improvised explosive devices," Multinational Forces Iraq reported in a press release. "The QRF 1 also detained several criminals, and raided and demolished the residence of a known IED maker and militia leader."
Al Latif is the fifth Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhood cleared in Basrah since Operation Knights' Assault was launched on March 25. Iraqi security forces have cleared the Al Huteen, Hayaniyah, Taymiyyah, and Qiblah neighborhoods over the past several weeks.
Quick Reaction Force 1 is the new designation for the 1st Iraqi Army Division, the most experienced unit in the Iraqi military. This unit deployed from Anbar province at the opening days of the Basrah operation to assist in the offensive.