Iraqi and Coalition forces press operations against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and Basrah despite the cease-fire signed with the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. The Iraqi Army has expanded its operations in Basrah province to the east just along the Iranian border, while 11 Mahdi Army fighters have been captured during operations in Baghdad over the past 24 hours.
Iraqi soldiers and police, backed by US and British advisers, have expanded Operation Knights’ Assault to the eastern town of Abu Al Khasib, in a region east of Basrah on the Iranian border. A brigade from the 1st Iraqi Army Division, backed by a battalion from 14th Iraqi Army Division and two Iraqi National Police battalions conducted operations along the border over the past two days. One suspect was detained and 52 AK-47 assault rifles and one submachine gun were found during the sweep.
Abu Al Khasib is on Highway 6 at the border crossing with Iran at Shalamcheh. The Iranian city of Shalamcheh is the main forward operating base for the Ramazan Corps’s southernmost command. The Ramazan Corps is the Qods Force command assigned to direct operations inside Iraq. Weapons, fighters, and cash smuggled across the border into Basrah would pass through Abu Al Khasib.
The Iraqi Army has been expanding its operations along the Iranian supply routes in the South during the month of May. After clearing the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed militias from Basrah, operations have expanded into Az Zubayr and Al Qurnah.
Iraqi troops from the 1st Iraqi Army Division entered Az Zubayr on May 25. Az Zubayr, which is just southeast of Basrah, sits at the crossroads to Nasariyah, a tactical distribution hub for Iranian weapons. Mahdi Army Special groups would pass through Az Zubayr as they moved weapons from Iran to Basrah to Nasariyah. Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a Special Groups financier and weapons smuggler in Az Zubayr on May 21.
Flash Presentation on the Ramazan Corps and the Iranian Ratlines into Iraq. Click the map to view. A Flash Player is required to view, click to download.
An operation was conducted by Iraqi security forces in the city of Al Qurnah, which is about 50 miles north of Basrah, on May 13. Multinational Forces Iraq described the move into Al Qurnah as “a new phase of operation ” that “continues the process of targeting criminal elements by the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Security Forces as strongholds previously dominated by criminal militias fall.”
Al Qurnah is one of several strategic distribution hubs for Iranian-made weapons, such as rockets, mortars, and the deadly explosively formed projectile roadside bombs. Weapons flow across the border from Majnun in Iran to Al Qurnah. These weapons are warehoused in Qurnah and distributed to forward locations to conduct attacks against Iraqi security forces and Iraqi officials, and Coalition forces.
Pressure on the Mahdi Army continues in Baghdad
While operations progress in the South, Iraqi and US forces conduct raids against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad. Eleven Mahdi Army fighters have been captured in Baghdad during the past 24 hours.
Coalition forces captured four Mahdi Army fighters, including a “an individual suspected of smuggling Iranian weapons and coordinating Special Groups training in Iran” and “training others in sniper tactics and acting as a key conduit between Special Groups leaders in the western Baghdad area” during a raid in the Kadhamiyah district on June 1.
Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a Special Groups operative behind rocket and mortar attacks along with another Mahdi Army fighter on May 31. The same day, US troops captured five Mahdi army fighters in separate actions in West Rashid, East Rashid, Mansour, and Adhamiyah. One of the men was behind EFP attacks, another was a weapons smuggler, facilitator and improvised explosive device maker, and another was responsible for conducting ethnic cleansing and weapons smuggling.
The Mahdi Army Special Groups are still conducting attacks against US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. A US soldier was killed in an EFP attack in northeastern Baghdad on June 1. The district was not named, but the US and Iraqi forces have been active against the Mahdi Army in New Baghdad since the Sadr City cease-fire was signed in mid-May.
For more information on Iran’s operations inside Iraq, see Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq.