US Special Forces fighting inside Sadr City


Soldiers from Company A, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division set concrete barriers in place in the surroundings of the southern portion of the Sadr City district of Baghdad May 3. (US Army photo/Specialist Joseph Rivera Rebolledo)

The battle for Sadr City continues as US and Iraqi forces continue to erect the concrete security barrier on Qods Street, the main thoroughfare that divides the southern third of Sadr City from the northern portion. US Special Operations Forces teams have entered the fray, and the specialized teams are fighting inside the Mahdi Army bastion for the second day in a row.

Twenty-three Mahdi Army fighters have been killed by US and Iraqi troops since the afternoon of May 8. US Special Operations teams operating inside Sadr City killed nine Mahdi Army fighters as they attacked Iraqi and US forces building the concrete barrier on Qods Street. The team also directed an airstrike that killed two more Mahdi Army fighters. Yesterday, US Special Forces killed two Mahdi Army fighters inside Sadr City.

US soldiers killed 12 more Mahdi Army fighters inside Sadr City from May 8-9. US troops used unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters, Abrams tanks, and small-arms fire in response to Mahdi Army attacks inside Sadr City. Mahdi Army fighters continue attempt to disrupt the building of the barrier. The US military said the construction should be completed in two weeks. Inside the secured area in southern Sadr City, the Iraqi Army is providing medical, humanitarian, and construction aid to civilians.

The US military has described the barrier as a “magnet” for Mahdi Army attacks as they seek to stop the construction effort. A total of 562 Mahdi Army fighters have been confirmed killed in and around Sadr City since March 25, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal.

Operations continue in the South

The Iraqi military continues to apply pressure on the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist movement in Basrah and the South.

More than 70 percent of Basrah has been cleared, Multinational Forces Iraq reported. Iraqi police arrested 45 “wanted persons” and three “suspects” in Basrah on May 8. A Mahdi Army rocket attack killed two civilian contractors and wounded four civilians and four Coalition soldiers at a forward operating base outside the city the same day.

In Karbala, police arrested the leader of a Mahdi Army “special brigades” and two of his lieutenants. In Amara, police captured two Mahdi Army fighters as they were transporting 25 “anti-tank landmines”. In Diwaniyah, police captured two men behind the assassination of the provincial governor.

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



  • mjr007 says:

    “Twenty-three Mahdi Army fighters have been killed by US and Iraqi troops since the afternoon of May 8.”
    All in a days work.
    Another two weeks of construction. Bill or DJ, what is involved in erecting the wall. It looks as if they are simply placing approx. 12-ft sections of wall with wider bases next to each other. What, if anything, are we doing to secure the wall so that it can withstand attack by militiamen and or mother nature for that matter?
    On another note, it seems that having the US SF involved can only steel the resolve of those supporting our engineers erecting the wall. IA and coalition forces protecting the engineers must see the US SF getting involved. That must reassure the resolve of our forces in the battle through implication of their mission’s importance so as to include the SF.

  • Matthew says:

    Let’s see, about 20 Mahdi Army confirmed KIA per day (conservatively) * 14 days is 280 KIA which means that 560 could turn into 800-850 by May’s end – maybe even sooner.
    I don’t believe this would happen because they would want the wall built ASAP to take Sadr City, but the desperation of the Mahdi Army makes me wonder if someone said, “Hmm, let’s slow down construction – this is a good way to bleed the Mahdi Army of more of their militia.
    I hadn’t known that the Iraqi Army was still clearing Basra (that does take a while) after taking the city. Bill, from what you know, how soon do you estimate they will be finished with that process?

  • Mark Pyruz says:

    Another good photo from Specialist Joseph Rivera Rebolledo of the engineering work. Thanks.

  • Alex says:

    I have a feeling that Special Forces activity in Sadr City is nothing new, and that we have been targeting JAM for quite some time inside there–even before GoI decided that Sadr City was no longer off limits.

  • Marlin says:

    This is a surprising development. It would seem the Mahdi Army has had enough.

    Followers of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr agreed late Friday to allow Iraqi security forces to enter all of Baghdad’s Sadr City and to arrest anyone found with heavy weapons in a surprising capitulation that seemed likely to be hailed as a major victory for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.
    In return, Sadr’s Mahdi Army supporters won the Iraqi government’s agreement not to arrest Mahdi Army members without warrants, unless they were in possession of “medium and heavy weaponry.”

    McClatchy Newspapers: In big concession, militia agrees to let Iraqi troops into Sadr City

  • Neo says:

    Well, lets add up the developments from the last few days. The JAM command center next to the hospital gets hit hard by rocket fire. Civilians get warned to evacuate areas of Sadr City. One of the JAM controlled hospitals gets shut down. Battalions of American troops have been showing up in adjacent neighborhoods over the last three weeks. US special forces make an appearance.
    JAM suddenly decides to stand down and let the IA come into Sadr City.
    Hmmm  Something’s Up!!!

  • MattR says:

    Marlin, a little lower on that page it also had: “Sadr supporter Araji, however, said the agreement specifically barred American forces from entering Sadr City. ‘The Iraqi forces, not the American forces, can come into Sadr City and search for weapons,’ Araji said. ‘We don’t have big weapons, and we want this to stop.’ “

    Doesn’t sound right to me.

  • coldoc says:

    I suspect all of Sadr’s supporter’s remarks will be “clarified” soon. Especially the one that US troops will not be allowed in Sadr City. They are already there building a wall!!

  • Neo says:

    “I suspect all of Sadr’s supporter’s remarks will be “clarified” soon.”

  • DaMav says:

    Amazing. Looks like McClatchy has thrown in the towel on the Huge Victory for Sadr meme they have been pushing for the past two months.
    Juan Cole, on the other hand, can still be counted on to deliver Sadrist propaganda straight from the tap…
    Saturday, May 10, 2008
    Sadrists Denounce Sistani and al-Maliki
    AFP reports that on Friday an aide to junior cleric Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr lashed out at Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani over his silence at the attacks on Sadr City (a Shiite slum) by the US and the government of PM Nuri al-Maliki:
    ‘ “We are surprised by the silence in Najaf where the highest Shiite religious authority is based,” Sheikh Sattar Battat said, referring to Sistani.
    “For 50 days Sadr City is being bombed … Children, women and old people are being killed by all kinds of US weapons, and Najaf remains silent,” he told the faithful at the weekly Friday prayers in Sadr City, Sadr’s stronghold. Battat said the Sadr movement has not seen any “reaction or fatwa (religious decree) from Najaf” criticising the government assault on Shiite fighters in Sadr City. ‘
    Also, Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Muhammadawi said in his sermon at the Kufa mosque that the shedding of blood by the Occupation forces through air strikes on the people must cease. He said it was bizarre that these air strikes should take place with the acquiescence of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. “This is something that never was done by any dictator in the world.”

  • Hamidreza says:

    Simply amazing. The US strategy in Iraq is now a full success with the fall of Sadr City.
    Also I would add yesterday’s attack from the north into Sadr City as another reason for Sadr’s capitulation. They figured that they are exposed on many sides and the battle is not just for the wall.
    Also there appears to be a genuine change of sentiment by the population.
    Iran got a spanking in Basra and a beating in Baghdad. No wonder Nasrollah in Lebanon is flaring up, in order to save face for the ultra-conservatives in Iran’s ruling circle.
    As amazing will be the attempts by NYT and McClatchy (“Truth to Power”) to spin this Sadrist capitulation as some kind of ulterior wisdom by al-Sadr. Especially if they can find a way to slight the US in that glorification.
    Funny how the death squad leader Sadr, running a mafioso state within a state, sensing defeat – all of a sudden wants the law to be upheld and warrants be issued for arrests. And of course the leftist NGOs are going to demand “human rights” for these law abiding death squads. What irony.
    In Basra McClatchy reports:
    The city isn’t free of Sadr influences, however, though the Iraqi army seems ready to quell any resurgence. Sadrists resumed prayer services on Friday for the first time since late March, but as the imam spouted anti-government rhetoric, Iraqi soldiers converged on the mosque and the Sadrists ran, witnesses said.
    That must have been quite a moment to witness.

  • Matthew says:

    Obviously, the Sadrists, if they were trying to prevent American troops from entering the city didn’t think about American pilots (manned and unmanned) flying over the city.
    I can just see unmanned drones flying over the city tracking down and relaying to IA units any possible heavy weapons movement and American helicopters dropping off IA SF teams or Iraqi SWAT teams on rooftops for, ah, needed detentions of suspects.
    Construction of the barrier WILL go on.
    A potential problem would be provision of infrastructure and aid to the rest of the Sadr City population, but the Americans can train the Iraqi Army how to do that.
    One other (referendum?) topic for the near future. Officially change the name of the locale – work with a committee of leaders from S.C. to slect a politically neutral name. Don’t know if it can happen or not, I’m just tired of the name Sadr even if the elder was killed by Saddam – put up a statute if they haven’t already for remembrance but then move on.

  • Marlin says:

    Via the linked article it’s clear the fighting didn’t stop immediately. The question now becomes, just how much control does al-Sadr actually wield in Sadr City at the moment?

    Baghdad aerial weapons teams conducted operations against criminal elements in Baghdad May 10.
    The AWT engaged a criminal element on site at approximately 6:40 a.m. with two Hellfire missiles. One criminal was killed, and the rocket rail and a shack were destroyed. Secondary explosions at the site also indicate that illegal weapons also were destroyed.
    At approximately 10 a.m., an AWT observed five criminals east of Al Hajj Jabr in the New Baghdad district of eastern Baghdad. The criminals were heavily armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, two PKC light machineguns and two AK-47 rifles. The AWT fired two Hellfire missiles and killed all five men.

    MNF-Iraq: MND-B AWTs engage rocket team and heavily armed criminals (Baghdad)

  • Marlin says:

    Oh, I see. The agreement isn’t effective immediately.

    “A 14-point agreement was reached with a delegation from the ruling Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) to end the crisis in Sadr City,” Sheikh Salah al-Ubaydi told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).
    Ubaydi said the agreement, effective as of Sunday, provided that all the items included would be implemented in four days’ time, noting it calls for “ceasefire, ending all armed activities and opening of all outlets leading to Sadr City.”
    “The agreement included the clearing of Sadr City of all explosive charges and mines, the closure of all illegal courthouses, ending all armed activities and acknowledging that the Iraqi government is the sole party that runs security issues and decides sending any forces to any area to impose order and security,” Dabbagh noted.
    She said the outcome of the meetings was good but there are still some pivotal issues pending consultations and might take some time to reach an agreement over.
    “One of these issues is the handover of more than 40 gunmen against whom arrest warrants were issued,” Kanani said.

    Aswat al-Iraq: Sadrists say struck deal with PM, govt. confirms


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