Operations in Diwaniyah continue to chip away at Sadr’s power base
The city of Diwaniyah continues to be a flashpoint between Iraqi and U.S.forces on one side, and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army on the other. Late Monday, a joint Iraq Army and U.S. Army patrol stopped at a police checkpoint across from the Al Qaim Mosque, and was hit with a grenade attack from Mahdi Army forces. Iraqi and U.S. forces returned fire, and killed two Madhi Army fighters. Eleven Mahdi fighters were killed in the resulting battle, with two Coalition soldiers wounded.
The patrol was then beseiged by supporting Madhi Army forces, and RPGs were employed. “During the attack, the patrol was fired upon by six to seven enemy fighters dressed as Iraqi policemen. The patrol returned fire and killed six of the terrorists dressed as IPs and heavily damaged a pickup truck with IP markings,” states the Multinational Forces – Iraq press release. The issuing of new police uniforms is designed to prevent such problems.
Sadr’s militia “As the patrol departed, a terrorist on the roof of the Al Qaim Mosque fired on the trail vehicle; Soldiers returned fire and killed the terrorist,” according the MNF-Iraq statement. Iraq forces did not follow up by searching the mosque, however.
Using mosques as armories and bases of attack is a tried and true method for the Mahdi Army and other insurgent groups. In August of 2004, during Sadr’s uprisng in Najaf, the Imam Ali mosque was commendeered by Sadr’s forces, and the mosque was desecrated.
The latest clash with Sadr’s forces in Diwaniyah follows a month of Iraqi and U.S. operations in the city designed to chip away at Sadr’s support base. Over the weekend, Iraqi and U.S. force killed 30 Mahdi militiamen in a lopsided battle. No Iraqi or U.S. personnel were killed or injured in the fighting.
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