GMLRS strike knocks out Special Groups command center in Sadr City


A member of the Iraqi National Police creates an inventory of illegal weapons confiscated in the Sadr City, as he turns them over to members of the 42nd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division, at Combat Patrol Base Comanche on April 19. (US Air Force photo/Technical Sergeant Adrian Cadiz)

US and Iraqi forces continue to target the Mahdi Army as an Iraqi delegation visited Iran to confront the country over its support of Shia militias battling the government. The US military conducted a guided rocket attack on a Special Groups headquarters adjacent to a hospital in Sadr City, while 14 Mahdi Army fighters have been killed during clashes over the past 24 hours.

The US Army targeted and destroyed a Special Groups command and control center in a Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System strike in Sadr City at 10 AM local time Saturday morning, Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “There were six GMLRS rocket strikes on these Special Groups criminal command and control nodes,” Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad, told The Long War Journal while refuting claims that the US used aircraft to attack. “We conducted a precision strike, hopefully got a few leaders, and sent a very strong message.”

The Special Groups have been using the location near the hospital for an extended period of time and US intelligence has followed the activities at this site. “We had been tracking it for some time,” Stover said. “Operations made the call to hit it. There may have been damages to the hospital – broken glass. There was likely ambulances damaged; however, it was the Special Groups criminal leadership that purposely put their command and control node there.”

The Special Groups are a subset of the Mahdi Army that receives backing from Iran’s Qods Force, the foreign clandestine operations wing that has supported Shia terror groups in Iraq. The Mahdi Army and the Special Groups have intentionally fought amongst the civilian population and use civilians as human shields in an attempt to inflate civilian casualties and create a media backlash against Iraqi and US operations.

The Rusafa health department media director claimed 28 Iraqi were wounded in the strike, and nine ambulances and 40 civilian vehicles were damaged. The Sadrist bloc ran the Health Ministry prior to withdrawing from the government in 2007, and the hospitals in Sadr City are known to be infiltrated with Mahdi Army and Sadrist bloc members. The Mahdi Army used hospitals as staging areas for sectarian attacks and weapons storage depots.

Construction on the Al Qods barrier continues

US and Iraqi forces killed 14 Mahdi Army fighters in Sadr City and northern and eastern Baghdad over the past 24 hours and the construction the wall continues. The US military described the barrier as a “magnet” for Mahdi Army attacks as they seek to stop the construction effort.

The US military killed 10 Mahdi fighters on May 2 as they attempted to stop the construction of the concrete barrier on Qods Street that is separating the southern third of Sadr City. Four more fighters were killed in the early morning today as they planted roadside bombs and the deadly explosively formed projectile mines supplied by Iran.

Iraqi government confronts Iran on arming Shia terrorists

As the fighting against the Iranian-backed militias continues in Baghdad, the Iraqi government’s delegation to Iran has returned after conducting talks on May 1. The delegation was sent to Iran to confront the country’s involvement in recruiting, arming, and training Shia militias that have attacked the Iraqi government and security forces and Coalition forces.

“[The delegation] presented a list of names, training camps and cells linked to Iran,” Haidar al Ibadi, a member of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s Dawa party, told Reuters. “The delegation also carried evidence of the smuggling of weapons and training of individuals in Iran to enter later into Iraq.”

The Iranians denied any involvement in Iraq, as they have in the past. “The Iranians did not confess or admit anything,” Ibadi told Reuters. “They claim they are not intervening in Iraq and they feel they are being unfairly blamed for everything going on Iraq,” he said of Tursday’s talks.

The Iraqi government changed its view of Iran’s involvement after evidence of Iranian weaponry manufactured in Iran was confiscated during operation in Basrah. “Basra changed it for the Iraqis,” an anonymous US military officer told Reuters. “I’m not sure they believed it before. But they went to Basra and saw it first hand.”

Iran claimed that talks with the US on Iraq’s security crisis were canceled due to Iranian objections of “US savage attacks against the Iraqi people.”

“Under the current circumstances and given the US widespread attacks against Iraqi people in different cities, Iran does not feel these negotiations are necessary,” an unnamed Iranian official told Fars, an Iranian government-supported news outlet.

But the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Maliki, has said operations would continue against “criminals” and illegal militias. The Iraqi government has ignored the Sadrist bloc’s request for a negotiated settlement to the fighting in Baghdad, Voices of Iraq reported. “The government has not responded on the initiative to start talk to end the crisis and the Sadrist bloc did not receive an official response from the government on the initiative,” Salah al Ubeidi, a spokesman for the Sadrist bloc said on May 2. Maliki has said the government would end the operations once the Mahdi Army puts down its weapons and disbands.

Background on the recent fighting in with the Mahdi Army

Mahdi Army forces openly took up arms against the government after the Iraqi government started the assault on Basrah on March 25 to clear the city of the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed Shia militias. Sadr called for his forces to leave the streets on March 30 just as Iraqi Army and police reinforcements began to arrive in Basrah. Sadr later admitted he ordered his followers within the Army and police to abandon their posts and join the fighting against the government.

In Baghdad alone, US and Iraqi forces killed 173 Mahdi Army fighters during the six days of fighting from March 25 up until Sadr declared a cease-fire. The fighting has not abated in Sadr City and other Mahdi Army-dominated neighborhoods in northern and eastern Baghdad. A total of 465 Mahdi Army fighters have been confirmed killed in and around Sadr City since March 25.

Sadr and his political movement have become increasingly isolated since the fighting began in Basrah, Baghdad, and the South. The Iraqi government, with the support of the political parties, said the Sadrist political movement would not be able to participate in upcoming provincial elections if it failed to disband the Mahdi Army. On April 13, the cabinet approved legislation that prevents political parties with militias from contesting provincial elections this year. The bill will now be sent to parliament for approval. Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the top Shiite cleric in Iraq, said the Mahdi Army was not above the law and should be disarmed. Sadr has refused to disband the Mahdi Army.

On April 20, Sadr threatened to conduct a third uprising, but later backed down from his threat, claiming it was directed only at US forces. The Maliki government has stood firm and said operations would continue until the Mahdi Army and other militias disarm and disband.

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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  • Richard1 says:

    I understand most of the hospitals are run by JAM

  • DJ Elliott says:

    That would be all of the hospitals in Sadr City.
    Most of MoH is still in house cleaning from the extended period of JAM control of that ministry.
    Funny how most of the medicine purchased was 7.62mm…

  • Richard1 says:

    How clean is the MOH?

  • Hamidreza says:

    Before an armed Islamist gangster movement (al-Sadr, Hezbollah) can take over power, they try to infiltrate two state structures: The judiciary – which allows them to legitimize their gangsterism; and the health facilities, which allows them to treat their injured and control the population by modulating critical services. You never see these Islamic gangsters trying to control production structures in order to propel economic development and growth. Their existence is purely parasitic and is based on the Klashnikov, extortion, and a metaphysical ideology to justify the gangsterism to the unsuspecting idealist and frustrated youth.

  • Hamidreza says:

    From the NYT article picture and the dastardly article by Alissa Rubin, you can see a road on the RHS of the damaged vehicles.
    The hospital is on the LHS.
    From the blast pattern, it is obvious that the GMLRS hit across the road to the right and avoided the hospital. Kids may have been hurt by flying glass. Not a big deal, unlike what NYT tries to portray.
    How come the NYT reporter does not bother to publish a picture of the target and show the JAM compound and the illegal activities taking place over there?
    The real question that Rubin fails to ask is why do these people allow their children to roam so closely to military targets and get hurt? Why don’t they simply move out of contested areas? Each Shiite lumpen has 10 – 12 siblings in other parts of Baghdad and in the country. Unless they are trying to be part of the grab for power, there is no reason why these families wish to be in the center of a military zone.

  • Hamidreza says:

    FANTASTIC JOB! The GMLRS is a game changing weapon. JAM did not expect that their command and control center to be wiped out so easily. They know that their other sites will be similarly destroyed without warning in a flick of the eyelash.
    The Shiites are now in a quandry. They had the impression that these Islamic gangsters were so tough, heroic and righteous – and what they see is that they are being picked off like mosquitoes while shooting their rockets and guns at the civilian population.
    Those Shiites who thought they could ride the wave of Islamic gangsterism to power and get a cushy government job that gave them control over their neighborhoods and a source of income with their extortion/protection rackets, now have to think twice.
    I think Juan Cole and other postcolonial Islamo-leftists are cringing from this defeat. I hope the US blows up more of these command and control structures, especially while the Iranian Quds forces are having a string of setbacks.
    The Shiite lumpens are going to come around. Once they see the IA on the ground in their neighborhoods and know that JAM’s klashnikov utopianism was just a pipe dream, they will drop JAM and QUDS and opt for political participation.
    The INP should pick up the Sadrist mollas and bring charges against them and take them out of running for public office. I will not be surprised if a Shiite awakening movement takes hold in Rusafa, and then travels north to Sadr, Shaub, and Shula.

  • Hamidreza says:

    Interesting article, written by a female Shiite stringer behind Iranian paid Islamofascist lines. The usual sympathetic lies about the heroics and righteousness permeates though.
    The Islamic gangsters even put up a show of force for her! Oh so romantic of these Islamic national socialists, with maidens awaiting them up there.
    One striking thing about the report is that the Sadrist population does not mind to be in the midst of a battle zone. They probably trust the government side not to indiscriminately shoot at them.
    And then the reporter attributes an explosion to an “artllery shell” as if she can tell the difference. This is how lies are made up.
    The Mahdi Army also claims to have a secret weapon at its disposal. Its elite special forces, called “The Nerves of the Righteous – the Islamic Resistance in Iraq”

  • Neo says:

    I think I understand your points about the Shiite population of Sadr City, collaboration with extremists and thugs definitely does have it’s costs for the population there. On the other hand, I am a good deal more sympathetic with their general plight. First, the Shiite population of Sadr City has been successively brutalized and coerced into submission for decades. Sadr and the Iranians found a compliant population not only because of ideological sympathy but also a population that was accustom to submission. People under such circumstances are often loath to make decisions for themselves, even when it means taking cover to protect their lives. Oppression doesn’t favor those who a decisive and independent. Another factor is moving a million or more poor people isn’t practicable either. Even when many do indeed move out of the way, the opportunity isn’t available to the entire population. Blaming people for their own destitution and ignorance isn’t helpful either. There are a whole chorus of other reasons people get stuck. There are the old, the infirm and indigent, physically or mentally handicapped to be taken care of. These people don’t have the flexibility that wealth brings. They are tied to their residence, employment, limited possessions, and entire social network that reside within the neighborhoods where they live. When tied to poverty these factors often conspire to keep someone put, even to the point where one is reluctant to flee for ones life. (Hurricane Katrina)
    I’m not saying the thoughts you have expressed are without merit. A certain about of compassion and understanding as well are in order. The military, both US and IA are in a position where they must finish this thing decisively in the face of all the problems it presents. To do otherwise is to let this senseless violence carry on forever. I have some hope that they can engineer a collapse for the Mahdi army that spares the population a bloodbath. That seems to be much more now than I did even weeks ago.

  • Neo says:

    I would like to know a few more specifics on the relationship between Sadr political wing and Iraqi health services. As Sadr’s people are taken down their political position within the Iraqi health ministry becomes an impossible accommodation. For the last few years they have in fact held much of the health care system hostage. I would hope that someone has his finger on who the bad actors are in this, and has something prepared for the near future. It seems that many of the hospitals throughout the south have their own little gangs of enforcers and thugs. These people need to be dealt with in a timely fashion before something ugly happens.
    I notice that quite a few ambulances were destroyed in the command center strike. I have heard little specific information about how JAM is using ambulances but in other wars, Hezbollah and Hamas used ambulances for transporting fighters and equipment. Maybe someone can get specific information on this subject.

  • 2LTV says:

    You’re doing the Lord’s work Bill. Keep up the outstanding coverage.

  • JusCruzn says:

    Bill Great story and hope you are keeping yourself safe over there reporting this stuff. I know for one I will never rely on the MSM for the real story on this stuff, especially the slant the NYT put on it. GREAT WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING TERRORISTS

  • rodguy911 says:

    OUtstanding job Bill, keep the good work.

  • Richard1 says:

    Sadr’s control over the people in Sadr City comes via providing them with food and aid. As soon as the government does that, they would have no need for Sadr’s militia.

  • Richard1 says:

    Also, it would seem that Maliki doesn’t see himself fighting Sadr as much as fighting a militia. He sees Sadr as a political entity. See this interview of the son of the head of SIIC:
    HAKIM: Look, if you mean Moqtada Sadr, it is one thing. The Mahdi Army is different. The Mahdi Army is a military faction, but Moqtada Sadr has a political faction and without a doubt the Islamic Republic of Iran has good relations with Moqtada Sadr and his political faction. And we are not worried about that relationship of the political faction of Mr. Sadr with Iran. The government of Iraq should comment on that if there is a worry about that or not. So far the government of Maliki has not said so.

  • KnightHawk says:

    Glad to see we’re not letting them feel “safe” anywhere.

  • Mike Hollins says:

    Precise weapons like these guided rockets are proving their worth in urban combat. U.S. soldiers launched six of these, each carrying 200 lbs. of explosives, from across Sadr City. Apparently, all six scored direct hits on a HQ of the Shia thugs fighting our soldiers. If these rockets had killed people in the hospital next door, they, and not the U.S., would have been responsible for the resulting war crime.
    By placing their HQ where they did, these armed criminals were betting the U.S. could not kill them without also killing many innocent people. By hiding behind these people, they have proven–not least to ordinary Iraqis–that they are cowards, and not warriors. The accuracy of American weapons has shown they are fools to boot.

  • Freedom Now says:

    The Shiites of Sadr City are no different than the Sunnis of Al-Anbar.
    They are victimized by the violent thugs that steal the right to speak on their behalf.
    Its about time that Al-Maliki united the Iraqis against Al-Sadr and Al-Qaeda.

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    Its to the advantage of the US that the Mahdi come out and fight. That way they can be eliminated. It was a good move targeting 1 building with the precision guided missle. Its trajectory is straight down. So as to not hit other buildings. I don’t know if the weapon used was the ATACMS system, launched from the MLRS launcher or another precision guided munition. The objective is to hit 1 building. Its possible coz of the trajectory.

  • Batman says:

    We will have to read between the lines one what happened with the delegation to Iran. Any concessions granted by Iran would have been on condition of allowing them to publicly save face.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/05/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.


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