Coalition Special Operations Forces captured a “key Special Groups financier” with direct links to Iran’s Qods Force in the city of Mahmudiyah on May 28. “He is suspected to be the primary financier between Iranian intelligence elements and Special Groups criminals in Mahmudiyah and southern Baghdad and was reportedly distributing funds to weapons smugglers supplying criminals in those areas,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported in a press release.
The Special Groups financier has conducted his activities outside Iraq, according to Multinational Forces Iraq. He is “believed to travel to Iran and Syria to procure funds on behalf of Special Groups senior leadership.”
Mahmudiyah is about 10 miles south of Baghdad. The city sits on what has been described as a sectarian fault line, where well-defined Sunni and Shia communities abut. Mahmudiyah was the scene of multiple mass-casualty suicide attacks in 2006 and early 2007, as al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army battled for control.
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.
Iranian-made weapons flowing from the South into Baghdad would pass through Mahmudiyah. Iran established the Ramazan Corps, which is run by the Qods Force, to direct operations and move weapons, money, and fighters to what it views as critical battlefields in Iraq. Baghdad is considered the center of gravity to influence the outcome in Iraq.
The US military has long made distinctions between the Mahdi Army and what it calls Iranian-backed Special Groups. The military makes these distinctions as part of an effort to divide the Mahdi Army and provide the nonextremist elements a way to end the violence. The Special Groups, which are Iranian trained, armed and funded, are essentially a subset of the Mahdi Army.
As Iraqi soldiers work to secure Sadr City, the raids and operations against the Mahdi Army continue throughout Baghdad. Twelve Mahdi Army fighters were killed in the eastern neighborhood of New Baghdad on May 28. Ten of those were killed in a single engagement in the Fedaliyah neighborhood in New Baghdad. US forces killed the Mahdi Army fighters as they were planting roadside bombs. Two more Mahdi fighters were killed as they approached US troops while “armed with loaded RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] launchers.”
New Baghdad is a Mahdi Army stronghold that is directly to the east of Sadr City. Incidents in New Baghdad as well as in Mahdi Army strongholds in northern and western Baghdad, particularly in the neighborhoods of Sha’ab and Shula, have increased since the cease-fire between the Iraqi government and the Sadrist movement was implemented in Sadr City.
Iraqi security forces continue to round up Mahdi Army fighters in the southern province. Thirty-four Mahdi Army fighters were captured during raids over the past two days.
Police arrested eight “gunmen” behind the murder of a police officer in Wasit province. Thirteen “wanted men” were captured in an operation in Hillah in Babil province. Iraqi security forces arrested 11 “wanted persons who were convicted in relation to criminal and terrorism-related cases” during operations in Basrah province. Iraqi and Coalition forces detained two more Mahdi Army fighters in Diwaniyah. “The force found a large number of small and medium arms during the raid,” a source told Voices of Iraq.
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