US and Iraqi forces continue to strike at the Mahdi Army in Baghdad despite the agreement reached between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army late Friday. Seventeen Mahdi Army fighters were killed in northeastern Baghdad over the past 24 hours.
Nine of the Mahdi Army fighters were killed in Sadr City: four Mahdi fighters were killed by an air weapons team as they planted an explosively formed penetrator roadside bomb; three were killed as they attacked the barrier emplacement teams along Qods Street; and two were killed as they fired rockets. Five more Mahdi Army fighters were killed by air weapons teams in New Baghdad as they grouped for an attack, and three more were killed as they conducted attacks in Adhamiyah.
The cease-fire signed yesterday between the Sadrist movement, which runs the Mahdi Army, and the government of Iraq will not hinder the building of the concrete barrier or operations against the Mahdi Army, US military officials have stated.
“Seeing as how the Special Groups never listened to [Sadr] to begin with, I don’t see how things will change,” Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad, told The Long War Journal on May 10. “We’re not stopping [construction on the barrier],” Stover said. “The barrier emplacement is ongoing and about 80 percent complete.”
Brigadier General James Milano, the Deputy Commanding General for Multinational Division Baghdad, confirmed the barrier is 80 percent complete and gave no indication the construction would be halted. During a briefing in Baghdad, Milano showed a map detailing the barrier.
The northwestern portion of the wall running along Qods Street, which divides the bottom third of Sadr City for the northern neighborhood, is all that remains. Estimates indicate it will take two weeks to complete this segment.
US Army air assets have relentlessly pursued the Mahdi Army in and around Sadr City. “To date, 57 rocket rails and mortars have been destroyed and 150 Special Groups Criminals killed,” Milano said.
The Mahdi Army has taken heavy casualties in Sadr City and the surrounding neighborhoods since the fighting began on March 25. A total of 579 Mahdi Army fighters have been confirmed killed in and around Sadr City since March 25, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. More than one-quarter of the Mahdi Army fighters killed have been killed via the air.
The Mahdi Army has fired over 1,000 rockets and mortars into Baghdad, causing 269 casualties. “The majority of these attacks have come from Sadr City,” Milano said.
The Mahdi Army is also using the deadly explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, roadside bombs to target US forces. Most of the roadside bomb attacks are EFPs, which are “the number one killer of our soldiers,” Milano said. Iran has supplied EFPs to the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups, which are a subset of the Mahdi Army.
For more on the recent fighting in Sadr City and the cease-fire, see Sadrist bloc buckles, agrees to let Iraqi Army in Sadr City.