US, Iraqi forces kill 30 Iranian-backed Special Groups operatives

Qods Force logo, click to view.

Raid in Sadr City the latest in a series of strikes against the Qods Force front

Iraqi and US security forces maintain the pressure on the Shia terror groups while continuing the hunt for al Qaeda in Iraq. A joint Iraqi and US force conducted a raid inside Sadr City on Wednesday, killing 30 members of the Iranian-backed Special Groups cells and capturing 12. The strike force was targeting a “cell of a Special Groups terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq into Iran for terrorist training,” according to the Multinational Forces Iraq press release.

“The targeted individual in last night’s raid acts as a proxy between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force and the Iraqi EFP network,” and “assists with the facilitation of weapons and EFP shipments into Iraq as well as the transfer of militant extremists to Iran for training.” Two Special Groups operatives were killed and 12 captured during the initial raid, and Coalition air power was called in to strike at a large group of fighters moving in “on foot attempting an assault on the ground forces.” Thirty Special Groups fighters, who are closely affiliated with the “rogue Mahdi Army” factions, were estimated to be killed in the airstrike.

The raid in Baghdad was driven by intelligence gained over the past several months. Multinational Forces Iraq stated that today’s raid is the latest in “a series of coordinated operations efforts that began with the raid in al Amarah in June.” The June operation in Amarah targeted the Qazali Network, which is now referred to as being part of the Special Groups network, along with the Sheibani Network and elements of the rogue Mahdi Army. Over 20 members of the Qazali network were killed, six wounded, and one captured in the Amarah raid.

Today’s raid in Sadr City is but the latest in a series of operations against the Iranian-backed Shia terror groups over the past several days. On August 4, 18 Special Groups operatives were captured and four killed during an early morning raid in Qasirin. Also on August 4, the Iraqi Army captured a Mahdi Army recruiter and organizer operating in Najaf. “The alleged rogue JAM [Jaysh al-Madhi or Mahdi Army] insurgent is suspected of using local charities as a front to screen and recruit individuals by offering them $500 to emplace IEDs,” the Multinational Forces Iraq press release noted. “He is also suspected of facilitating cross-border training, garnering financial support, and transporting equipment and weapons (to include explosively formed penetrators and improvised explosive devices) with Persian militant groups to be used against Iraqi and Coalition Forces.” US airstrikes on a Mahdi Army rocket site in the outskirts of Diwaniyah killed three members of the rocket cell.

On August 6, Iraqi Special Operations Forces raid in the Amil neighborhood of Baghdad resulted in the capture of eight rogue Mahdi Army fighters. Another was killed in a follow-on airstrike.

On August 5, US paratroopers captured a Mahdi Army company commander and five of his operatives during a raid in Musiyyib in northern Babil province. On the same day, Iraqi and US security forces captured a Mahdi Army battalion commander in Baghdad who “is believed to command five companies of terrorists who conduct improvised explosive device, suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and mortar attacks against Iraqi Forces in the area.”

Two other major raids against the Special Groups and Mahdi Army occurred over the past month. On July 27, US and Iraqi forces killed 17 members of the rogue Mahdi Army during a raid in Karbala. On June 30, a raid in Sadr City resulted in 26 Special Groups operatives killed and 17 captured.

Multinational Forces Iraq and the Iraqi military have intensified the attacks on the Special Groups and the Iranian-supported elements of Mahdi Army since Gen. David Petraeus briefed on the nature of the network on April 26, 2007.

The US subsequently captured Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative with close links to Iran’s Qods Force. Daqduq is a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah, who has commanded both a Hezbollah special operations unit and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s security detail. Daqduq admitted to establishing the Special Groups network along the lines of Hezbollah, at the behest of Iran’s Qods Force. The Special Groups cells are essentially the Iraqi version of Hezbollah.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • madconductor says:

    Great report – absolutely wonderful news. And the summary provided on recent past successes makes it even better. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up with the numbers – so when post a great success story like this and add the recent past, it keeps it in perspective. It’s not a one day success but rather a long term operation that’s keeps getting better.
    I wonder – very few of the “operatives” are distinctly referred to as Iranians. Is there any information that some of these guys are not only trained in Iran but are Iranian forces themselves?

  • MattR says:

    Sorry if this is a bit off topic but I’ve read in a few places that as AQ is being squeezed out of Baghdad some Shiite militias are moving in to “fill the vacuum”. This doesn’t exactly fit in with “clear and hold” but I assume things are more complex than that. Can someone fill me in on the details? Is this expected? Is this a surprise? How widespread is it? Is it expected to be temporary? Are there plans to deal with it? Thanks.

  • MattP says:

    As Shia insurgents and Al Qaida are being cleared out, peaceful Iraqis are moving in to “fill the void.” This trend is seen as a sign of failure for the American coalition by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

  • Captain America says:

    Just seen a vid of CNN’s interview with Senators Durbin and Casey from Baghdad. They now concede that the surge is making progress.
    Not ready to concede defeat, Durbin and Casey assured us that the political process in Iraq has failed.
    Inevitably, they reach the same conclusion: pull our troops out now.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 08/08/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • MattR says:

    MattP, Gen Odierno said the void was being filled by the militias, not Pelosi and Reid.

    It seems to me the downfall of AQ is being precipitated by 1) the fact they have nothing to offer but violence and 2) The Sunni tribes have enough experience at governing that they can organize and collectively decide the MNF are a better way to go. This gets back to someone’s comment that it takes a certain amount of pain and time before an insurgency is fought by the locals. That said, what form of local government, institution, whatever is around for the Shiites? I’m guessing that during Saadam the Sunnis could create institutions and the Shiites could not. So the Shiites may have a longer way to develop leadership? Is this lack of governance the reason the militias are filling the void? Also, are these militias as violent towards the local populace as AQ is towards the Sunnis?

  • Alex says:

    I have a feeling that our military intelligence is now flooded with leads.
    Really, what is needed is an Iraqi version of President Alvaro Uribe (Colombia) to hold things together. At the least though most of Iraq could end up like Portland, Oregon, where the government is inept (more so than usual for local US politics) but the streets are safe.

  • RD says:

    The British bunkering down in Basra and now withdrawal seems to be the model for what will happen if the US leaves.
    Do you have any information on what exactly is happening in Basra, and what it might take to turn that city around?

  • Cecil Turner says:

    Superb roundup of current tactical ops. Makes a nice balance to the CNN coverage, which downplayed the terrorist angle:

    Iraqi and coalition troops overnight killed about 30 people in Baghdad’s Sadr City — most of them in an airstrike — as they targeted a militia cell with suspected links to Iran, the U.S. military said.

    Great work.

  • section9 says:

    The “Special Groups” mentioned are obviously Iranian Quds Force troopers that have been burned by local Shi’ites. I suspect that al-Sadr chafes at being treated as a junior partner and wants to burninsh his credentials with the locals, rather than be thought of as a stooge for Tehran.

    Conversely, the Iranians could have been burned by factions in Tehran wishing to bring Ahmadhi-Nejad down a peg in advance of the Presidential Election in 2 years.

    Either way, the U.S. appears to have the tactical upper hand on the Iranians.

  • Don Cox says:

    “HAND IN HAND. is that how you behave when ur country is in disarray coz of this country’s leader?”
    Hugs and kisses among politicians mean very little.
    Maliki has an army which is much weaker than Iran’s. Iraq is at real risk of being taken over by Iran in the same way as Syria took over Lebanon. IMO Maliki is playing nice to buy time until his country can defend itself.

  • SFC MAC says:

    MattR said:
    The Sunni tribes have enough experience at governing that they can organize and collectively decide the MNF are a better way to go….I’m guessing that during Saadam the Sunnis could create institutions and the Shiites could not.
    I would add that the Sunnis retained power by brute force, oppressing the other tribes/ethnic/religious groups and keeping them separated much like Marshal Tito did in the former Yugoslavia. For them to have a stable future, they have to make compromises.

  • RW says:

    There’s much speculation beyond what this activity means and most any soldier on the operation could explain it.
    Comparisons to Basra are not the correct analogy. Basra is an almost entirely Shite area and bands of gangs are now roaming and doing what gangs do. The British have reportedly realized the error of their low key approach and and now are facing a quandry of “retaking” Basra or allowing the city to remain a gang stronghold.
    This most certainly would not happen in Baghdad should the MNF leave.
    There would almost certainly be an escalation to push the Sunnis out entirely and it would be bloody, cruel and depraved. Memories of the suffering under Saddam have not been forgotten whatsoever.
    With the vacuum of power in the government due to the major rift between the main factions, Shite alliances, Sadr, Sunni groups: seeing the solution is not even in sight now.
    From a military perspective, the surge plan is making much progress on many different fronts. Where that leads the political forces within the country is not clear. They aren’t even talking. They are in recess.


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