Sadr delivers sermon in Kufa after returning from Iran in May. [AP Photo] Click to view.
Multinational Forces Iraq conducted a major raid in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Forty-nine Special Groups operatives were killed in a nighttime raid targeting a cell leader of the Iranian-backed Shia terror group.
Coalition forces, often the cover name given to the special operations forces hunter-killer teams of Task Force 88, met heavy resistance in Sadr City as they cleared buildings in search of the Special Groups leader. The clearing teams “received sustained heavy fire from adjacent structures, to include automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades, or RPGs,” and killed 33 terrorists. Six more terrorists were killed as air support was called in on a team attempting to maneuver and hit the Task Force with RPGs, and another ten were killed as the raiding party was leaving the site.
The size and scale of the engagement indicates Coalition forces may have, either knowingly or unknowingly, came close to a high-value target far greater than “an individual reported to be a long time Special Groups member specializing in kidnapping operations,” who has sought funding from Iran.
Multinational Forces Iraq also issued a warning to Muqtada al Sadr in its press release on the killing of the 49 Special Groups fighters. Multinational Forces Iraq has repeatedly warned Sadr and his Mahdi Army to hold to the ceasefire announced in late August.
By mentioning Sadr and the Mahdi Army in the same breath in a press release on the killing of Special Groups fighter, Multinational Forces Iraq is reminding Sadr the US recognizes the link between the two groups still exists. The mention of Sadr and his Mahdi Army in press releases on the Special Groups is fair warning that the distinctions made between the Special Groups and Sadr’s militia can be lifted at any time.
Iraqi and US forces have focused significant resources on targeting the Iranian-back Special Groups since the start of 2007. Most recently, Iraqi and US forces conducted two high-profile raids against the Special Groups over the past three weeks. On September 30, Coalition forces captured 15 members of the Special Groups during a raid in Baghdad. On October 5, 25 Special Groups fighters were killed during an engagement northwest of Baqubah in a raid designed to capture a Special Groups leader.
As the raid in Sadr City captures the headlines, Coalition and Iraqi forces have been clashing with the Mahdi Army in the southern city of Diwaniyah. The city has been a battleground in the past as the Mahdi Army has attempted to assert control of the city.
Elements of the Mahdi Army shelled the largely Polish force at Camp Echo, while attacking a convoy with machinegun fire on October 15. Twenty civilians and two Polish troops were reported wounded in the attacks.
On October 17, Iraqi forces arrested a Qadisiyah provincial council member “who is suspected of facilitating terrorist attacks.” The council member was a member of Sadr’s political movement as well as the Mahdi Army; Multinational Forces Iraq also warned the Mahdi Army to keep the peace in this press release. On the same day, a roadside bomb killed seven Iraqi policemen as they were on a patrol in the city.
On October 18, fighting was reported in a district in Qadisiyah province between Iraqi Security Forces and a group called Kataib al Hussein, or the Hussein battalions. The Shia group “had driven Iraqi police from a major district in the province, but reports issued following the attack allege the group has been driven out.”
On October 19, Polish helicopters killed two “extremists” after they targeted a Coalition patrol with three IEDs, machine guns and RPGs. On October 20, US and Iraqi forces were reported to have detained 30 Mahdi Army fighters during a sweep in Diwaniyah.
Shia extremist groups have specifically targeted Polish troops and interests in Iraq over the past month, as they took credit for attacks on the Polish envoy and embassy in Baghdad. The terror groups are attempting to influence the Polish elections and force a withdrawal of the eastern European nation.
Sadr called for a cessation of Mahdi Army attacks after a clash in Karbala with Iraqi Security Forces during a religious festival resulted in 52 killed and over 300 wounded. The festival was shut down due to the fighting. Sadr has been directly implicated in the Karbala fighting and is believed to be behind the assassinations of the governors of Muthanna and Qadisiyah provinces. Shia are beginning to turn on Sadr’s Mahdi Army in the Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City.
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