Operations continue in Sadr City

Map of the disposition of Iraqi and US forces in and around Sadr City and the progress on the barrier. The red portion has yet to be completed. Map courtesy of Multinational Forces Iraq.

US and Iraqi forces continue to strike at the Mahdi Army in Baghdad despite the agreement reached between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army late Friday. Seventeen Mahdi Army fighters were killed in northeastern Baghdad over the past 24 hours.

Nine of the Mahdi Army fighters were killed in Sadr City: four Mahdi fighters were killed by an air weapons team as they planted an explosively formed penetrator roadside bomb; three were killed as they attacked the barrier emplacement teams along Qods Street; and two were killed as they fired rockets. Five more Mahdi Army fighters were killed by air weapons teams in New Baghdad as they grouped for an attack, and three more were killed as they conducted attacks in Adhamiyah.

The cease-fire signed yesterday between the Sadrist movement, which runs the Mahdi Army, and the government of Iraq will not hinder the building of the concrete barrier or operations against the Mahdi Army, US military officials have stated.

“Seeing as how the Special Groups never listened to [Sadr] to begin with, I don’t see how things will change,” Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad, told The Long War Journal on May 10. “We’re not stopping [construction on the barrier],” Stover said. “The barrier emplacement is ongoing and about 80 percent complete.”

Brigadier General James Milano, the Deputy Commanding General for Multinational Division Baghdad, confirmed the barrier is 80 percent complete and gave no indication the construction would be halted. During a briefing in Baghdad, Milano showed a map detailing the barrier.

The northwestern portion of the wall running along Qods Street, which divides the bottom third of Sadr City for the northern neighborhood, is all that remains. Estimates indicate it will take two weeks to complete this segment.

US Army air assets have relentlessly pursued the Mahdi Army in and around Sadr City. “To date, 57 rocket rails and mortars have been destroyed and 150 Special Groups Criminals killed,” Milano said.

The Mahdi Army has taken heavy casualties in Sadr City and the surrounding neighborhoods since the fighting began on March 25. A total of 579 Mahdi Army fighters have been confirmed killed in and around Sadr City since March 25, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. More than one-quarter of the Mahdi Army fighters killed have been killed via the air.

Graphs depicting the indirect fire attacks in Baghdad over the past two months.

The Mahdi Army has fired over 1,000 rockets and mortars into Baghdad, causing 269 casualties. “The majority of these attacks have come from Sadr City,” Milano said.

The Mahdi Army is also using the deadly explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, roadside bombs to target US forces. Most of the roadside bomb attacks are EFPs, which are “the number one killer of our soldiers,” Milano said. Iran has supplied EFPs to the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups, which are a subset of the Mahdi Army.

For more on the recent fighting in Sadr City and the cease-fire, see Sadrist bloc buckles, agrees to let Iraqi Army in Sadr City.

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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  • C. Jordan says:

    Nice! Keep up the great work.
    Very happy to see that MNF are keeping on the pressure.

  • KnightHawk says:

    Nice update, thanks for the slides too, more informative then the WaPo one, full slides had some interesting nuggets in them. One question though do you know what the 5 light blue triangles on the map south of the security barrier? COPs? GoI related distro\assistance centers(IAC’s)?
    Thanks Bill.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Knighthawk, I don’t know the answer but have asked MND-B for feedback.

  • KnightHawk says:

    Thanks Bill much appreciated.

  • Thanos says:

    Great work as always Bill, I like the slides and maps, they help. Also if you get a chance stop by my place, reports have it that some of the Afghanistan kills are TTP commanders in Afghanistan, you’ll recognize the names.

  • KW64 says:

    DJ or Bill,
    I asked this question before on a stale thread but you may have a better answer for it than we came up with:
    Both Hezbollah and the Mahdi Militia seem to have been supplied by Iran and we hear that Hezbollah has trained Mahdi fighters, but Hezbollah in Lebanon had Russian-made Kornet anti-tank weapons that were used to apparent good effect against Israeli armor in 2006. I have not heard of any insurgent groups using these in Iraq. Is this because Russia is not allowing it or do we have better countermeasures so that it is not so effective?
    The impression one gets is that everything against armor is done with IED’s in Iraq rather than with anti-tank weapons. If that is true, why wouldn’t the Hezbollah trainers of the Mahdi be upgrading their anti-armor capabilities to match what they have in Lebanon?

  • doug says:

    It seems that in another two or three weeks the barrier enclosing the southern third of Sadr city will be complete and which should greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the heavy weapons attacks emanating from there.
    Do you know what the plan is for the remaining two thirds of the city? Divide it again into a managable peice and “enclose and clear” it?
    Or just maintain IA points of presence around the perimeter?

  • Belisariusx says:

    All the bad guys are falling apart and the Media is falling all over themselves in a desperate effort to find a way to say otherwise. Good to read the truth instead of Media Spin.

  • section9 says:

    Depends on the availability of top-notch Moscow grade Kornets.
    Ivan may not want the Iranians handing out their hardware. So they may have cut the tap.

  • SoldiersDad says:

    The 1st IA Division has been redesignated the 1st QRF.
    The rest of Sadr City will be an Iraqi Show.
    Anbar is a tad lean at the moment…but having a spare full division to do attitude adjustment for various miscreant groups is quite nice unless of course you are a miscreant.
    I’m expecting a lot of crying and whining in the next couple of weeks on the part of Sadrs “Powerful” militia.

  • gunjam says:

    “‘To date, 57 rocket rails and mortars have been destroyed and 150 Special Groups Criminals killed,” Milano said.'”
    I’m sorry: The current MNF-I policy of calling one’s enemy in a rebellion “criminals” is Orwellian. Why not call them what they are — Iranian-backed, radical Shi’ite rebels (unless, of course, their main focus is running drugs, or girls, or liquor, or numbers — which is certainly possible for some, but I hardly suspect is the case for the majority of them)? In my view, it all hearkens back at root to a congenital politically-correct phobia of calling Islamists or jihadists, “Islamists,” or “Jihadists.” (And to think we called our enemy “J-ps” and “Krauts” during the Big One! Wow! Talk about a cojones-deficit factor these days!)
    This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the extreme prejudice that Army Aviation is using to eliminate these crimin… — er, Shi’ite Jihadist rebels. 😉

  • TBinSTL says:

    >Posted by gunjam at May 12, 2008 12:55 AM ET:
    My take on this is that they want to be sure that the word can’t be reasonably translated into an Arabic word that would glorify them. “Criminal” is short sweet and to the point with little room for obfuscation. “Rebel” sounds romantic to some. Even “fighter” lends some unfounded legitimacy and it should be obvious that “Jihadi” would be a real problem for reporting in Arabic. Imagine if things were being translated into English and the enemy was refering to our soldiers as “Saints”.

  • Hamidreza says:

    This article talks about a couple who live in Sadr City combat areas but refuse to leave their home. Why? It cleverly avoids that topic. This despite the fact that the brother in law lives just outside of Sadr City within walking distance.
    Then when the battle comes too close for comfort, the couple leaves for the brother in law at the worst possible time.
    And then when the “truce” is announced, they rush back to the combat zone.
    Obviously they are Mahdi operatives helping the death squadders in the daily fights against US engineers. But McClatchy claims them to be “civilians”. And if they get killed, the blame is then put on the US for killing an “innocent” woman.
    The guy even subscribes to Mahdi propaganda video that claims that IA is summarily executing civilians in Najaf and Karbala by hanging.
    How cluless and unprofessional can McClatchy get?

  • PersonFromPorlock says:

    I agree with gunjam, “criminals” is Orwellian. It isn’t necessary to denigrate enemies (it’s even a little childish), just to kill them.

    TBinSTL raises an interesting point but I wonder how “criminals” is in fact translated in Arabic-language reports. Anyone know?

  • Marlin says:

    It seems the truce has now officially been signed.
    A senior Shiite lawmaker says a Sadr City cease-fire has been signed in an effort to stop fighting.
    The deal was officially signed Monday between five representatives of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and four member of the main Shiite political bloc.
    Khalid al-Attiyah, the deputy parliamentary speaker, says Iraqi government forces will be able to enter Sadr City as early as Wednesday.

    Associated Press: Shiite bloc says Sadr City cease-fire signed with Sadrists

  • Neo says:

    Well, It’s day one of the truce and the fighting goes on as usual, perhaps a little bit less of it.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The purpose of the usage of ‘criminal’ is to provide an out for those willing to take it (I’ve detailed this in the past). It doesn’t have anything to do with any PC concerns.
    By the way, the jihadists like it when we call them jihadists. It lends them credibility.

  • Mike L says:

    I believe the Arabic for ‘terrorists’ is (transliterated) arhabi. Any force that uses civilians as shields, which the rogue JAM elements do in Sadr City, is a bunch of terrorists. So why not call them arhabi? Any English speaker can pronounce that, and the point will be taken.

  • C. Jordan says:

    Mike L,
    arhabi is also spelled as irhabi.
    Check out this discussion for more

  • Neo says:

    The designation “criminal”

  • Neo says:

    over stigmatization = over estimation
    Spell Checker

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Counter-terrorism 101
    Do not give the terrorist any semblance of legitimisy.
    Do not call them a terrorist since some people equate that to resistance fighter.
    Do not use any of their terms for themselves.
    Criminalize them.
    Call them by the crimes they commit.
    Murderer, Kidnapper, Extortionist, etc.
    Call them criminals and gangsters.
    Destroy any claims to legitimacy that a political or military reference that they prefer might give them by not using them…
    This goes back decades to successful CT ops and is basic PhyOps technic folks…

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/12/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I completely disagree that Sadr called the August 2007 cease fire to “clean house.” The cease fire was called immediately after Sadr’s forces took a very real beating in Karbala. Sadr claimed it was to clean house to save face, but in reality he was concerned about further attacks in his (now former) strongholds.

  • Richard1 says:

    Bill et al.,
    Does Sadr have any strongholds left?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Here are the answers to Knighthawks’ questions, from MND-B:
    “The light blue triangles are U.S. outposts. We’ve always said we’re in support – IA in the lead. It’s true in this event. They’re up on the line and we move to support them when they receive contact.”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Richard1, I think its premature to say the Mahdi Army has lost its strongholds in Baghdad and elsewhere. Its say the influence has been diminished…

  • KnightHawk says:

    Got it.
    Thanks again for following up and passing that along Bill.

  • Richard1 says:

    Thanks for replying.

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  • Neo says:

    “I completely disagree that Sadr called the August 2007 cease fire to “clean house.” The cease fire was called immediately after Sadr’s forces took a very real beating in Karbala. Sadr claimed it was to clean house to save face, but in reality he was concerned about further attacks in his (now former) strongholds.”


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