US troops kill 28 Mahdi fighters in Sadr City

The apparent respite in yesterday’s fighting was illusory as US forces killed an additional 27 Mahdi Army fighters and a senior Special Groups leader during a series of engagements in the afternoon and throughout the night in Sadr City. One of the larger clashes occurred as US forces were attacked while constructing the barrier that divides the southern portion of Sadr city where US and Iraqi troops have established a foothold.

The fighting began just before noon as Mahdi Army fighters attacked US troops with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire as they were building the concrete security barrier in Sadr City. US soldiers responded and killed three Mahdi fighters. Ten minutes later, US troops killed seven Mahdi Army fighters after they attacked the soldiers with mortars and machine guns. No US soldiers were reported killed in either incident.

US troops killed another 17 Mahdi Army fighters in a series of engagements throughout the day as they transported weapons, set up rockets for launching, planted roadside bombs, and attacked US troops in Sadr City.

Coalition Special Forces also conducted a daylight strike today inside Sadr City. A Coalition airstrike targeted a “known Iranian-sponsored senior Special Groups leader” inside Sadr City this afternoon Baghdad time. “According to our operational reports the ‘Special Groups leader’ … was killed,” Multinational Forces Iraq said in answer to an e-mail inquiry by The Long War Journal. The Special Groups are Iranian-trained, financed, and armed elements of the Mahdi Army.

The Mahdi Army has taken heavy casualties in Sadr City since the fighting broke out on March 25. According to US and Iraqi reports compiled by The Long War Journal, 463 Mahdi Army fighters have been killed in and around Sadr City. These numbers do not include Mahdi Army fighters who may have died hours after being wounded in the fighting.

A buildup in Sadr City

The US and Iraqi military have rapidly built up their forces in and around Sadr City over the past several weeks. Two Iraqi Army brigades and elements from an Iraqi armored brigade and an Iraqi National Police brigade, along with eight US Army battalions, have been reported in military press releases to be operating inside Sadr City over the past several weeks. In early April, only two US Army battalions, an Iraqi Army brigade, and elements from an Iraqi National Police brigade were known to be operating inside Sadr City.

A US Army brigade, three Iraqi National Police brigades, and an Iraqi Army brigade are also operating in the neighborhoods adjacent to Sadr City. This unprecedented buildup of forces indicates the Iraqi government and the US military are serious about advancing into Sadr City beyond the southern third of the district, which is being hemmed in by the security barriers under construction.

Units Operating inside Sadr City:

US Army:

• 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment

• 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division

• 1st Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)

• 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division

• 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division

• 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division

• 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division

• 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division

Iraqi Army:

• 42nd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division

• 44th Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division

• Elements from the 35th Tank Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Mechanized Division

Iraqi Police:

• Elements from the 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division

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



  • C. Jordan says:

    Thanks Bill you are on a roll, putting other info sources too shame.
    Looks like we are keeping the pressure on JAM and Iran.
    What will happen after Sadr City is pacified?

  • KaneKaizer says:

    When the Mahdi death toll breaks 1,000 I’ll throw a party. Another for 2,000 and so on.
    Anyone know the figures for the number of Mahdis captured? Killed or captured, both mean fewer Mahdis on the streets.

  • C. Jordan says:

    Iraqi MPs, Sadr meet in Iran in bid to end clashes
    “It was the first acknowledgement by Sadr’s people that the cleric is in Iran. It was not clear whether the talks were being held in Tehran or Qom, however.”
    It appears to me that people on the inside are finally getting sick of the pointless and hard headed bloodshed.

  • MattR says:

    Sorry about this, but I have lots of questions. When is the wall expected to be completed? Also, is the Mahdi army focusing on the US Army and not attacking the IA? or is there just more US Army in Sadr City than IA? Were there other battles with AQ where over 400 insurgents were killed in a month? This sounds like desperation on the part of the Mahdi.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    Strange: haven’t seen much in the press or elsewhere about Mosul.
    I assume operations are ongoing in Mosul but, so far thankfully, AQI has not managed to take advantage of the focus on Sadr City. I wonder what this tells us, if anything?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I’ll do my best to answer briefly:
    1) I do not have a timeframe on the completion of the barrier.
    2) It does seem that the Mahdi Army has focused its attacks on US forces lately, but they have attacked IA and IP patrols as well.
    3) Perhaps at the height of the sure AQ took these levels of casualties. But remember that in this entry I am only tracking Sadr City. The Mahdi Army lost 415 in Basrah and an estimated 200-300 in the wider South.
    there are no good figures on Mahdi captured, I have not attempted to track this.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    C. Jordan,
    Sorry I missed yours… Thank you. I don’t know the answer to that question. I suspect it will take quite a long time to clear Sadr City, the right mix of Iraqi forces are not yet available as DJ said in a different thread. Honestly we need to see if the Iraqi government decides to follow through. It looks like they will but much can happen in the next few weeks and months.

  • remoteman says:

    More good news. Our soldiers are just awesome. They roll out every day/night and get the job done. I wonder how long JAM can continue this level of op tempo. Either they have massive stores of arms in Sadr City – in the mosques no doubt – or they are getting additional material smuggled in. I would think the latter would become increasingly difficult, thereby putting a time limit on how long they could effectively fight. I think we will see that limit when Sadr openly calls for negotiation/hudna.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/01/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

  • C. Jordan says:

    Thanks for your comments on my question.
    What will happen after Sadr City is pacified?
    I posted the question thinking it rhetorical.
    If Iraq stabilizes, and becomes a leading partner
    fighting the long war, will there be a place for them
    on the world stage?
    The demonstrated fortitude of Iraqis to stop terror
    could lead the middle east to a broad rejection of tyranny. Could they have a role in Pakistan? Afghanistan?
    On a side note: Great job on Al Jazeera Bill
    You showed amazing restraint, kudos.

  • Cordell says:

    Thank you again for your excellent, detailed reporting. Your reports are encouraging, but you might wish to temper them with some mention of U.S. and Iraqi military casualties if they are available; when the media here report five Americans died in Baghdad from small arms and mortar fire in the last few days, one is probably safe to assume that they died in and around Sadr City.
    By the way, do you have any estimates for the size of the Mahdi Army, broken out between irregular militia members and the Special Groups forces, in and around Sadr City? (Judging just by the relative size of Sadr City, ~2 million, versus Basra, ~1.5 million, I would guess that their numbers in Baghdad prior to the onset of fighting in March would have been about 15,000 irregulars and 2,000 Special Groups. Their last show of strength march through Baghdad turned out an estimated 10,000.) Also do you have any information on Mahdi Army desertion rates based upon Basra? It appears most of the irregulars there melted away. Please confirm.
    Thanks again for all your hard and oftentimes dangerous work.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I do not have the numbers, I think the estimates of the size of the Mahdi Army are blown way out of proportion but I cannot say for sure.
    Just an FYI, the two US IED deaths I saw in Baghdad were in Western Baghdad, far from the Sadr City fighting. I have been asking MNF-I about EFP deaths in Baghdad but have not gotten conclusive answers. These are usually reported clearly in the releases at the MNF-I site. I mentioned the six wounded during the fighting the other day when 22 Mahdi were killed in the ambush on US forces as well. I am not seeing many casualty reports from NE Baghdad the past few days. I have mentioned US and IA/IP casualties in the past as well, if you walk backwards you will see these.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Sadr has been calling for ceasefire all thru April.
    PM Maliki is not interested unless they turn in their weapons and disband…

  • JusCruzn says:

    Bill, Great reporting and keep the stories coming. Always look to this website and a few others for the straight scoop. I know the MSM here always don’t show all or put their slant on it. For our troops and the IA GREAT WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING TERRORISTS!!!

  • bubarooni says:

    when reading the comments of sadr’s spokesmen in regards to the current round of fighting i get a weird feeling of deja vu. it’s baghdad bob all over again!

  • amr says:

    Posted at 2:07 pm on May 1, 2008 by Allahpundit at Hot Air
    Any truth of this?
    Freed Gitmo detainee carried out suicide bombing in Iraq. So says his cousin to Al Arabiya, relaying a phone call he got from a “friend”

  • Richard1 says:

    There have been a number of indirect fire attacks on our FOBs next to Sadr City, and we have taken casulties.
    The reports are at the mnf-iraq site

  • Sam says:

    Man, we are just ripping them to shreds. I don’t see how they can sustain losses like this without at least some success against American forces to point to. If they keep fighting it will degenerate to the standard IED planting without confronting the Americans because they are just going to get slaughtered.

  • DAPolson says:

    Bill: A little order of battle information, what model the Iraqi Army being patterned after and what is the size of an Iraqi infantry brigade?
    Long term I would think much of this is good experience for the IA units and will help build NCO’s and Officers if they can get around the tribal loyalties and corruption and promote based on performance.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Dave, here is a lot of Order of Battle information, courtesy of DJ Elliott:
    The Army is essentially being built along the lines of the US Army, but I’ll leave that to our resident expert, DJ, if he has time to answer.

  • steve bk says:

    god bless our troops!

  • Alex says:

    How is the situation in Basra going?
    IMO, without Basra, and now without a third of Sadr City, JAM is in serious trouble without financing from extortion rackets, oil smuggling, and so forth. An army marches on its stomach.

  • John says:

    This cannot be. We are losing to Moqtada al Sadr and he has Maliki right where he wants them.
    The NY Times told me so.

  • M. Simon says:

    Sadr’s Army will not ask for a hudna. They will declare victory and try to melt away.
    The barrier is a threat to the melt away strategy. Thus the fierce fights against the barrier builders despite the fact that the IA ought to be a somewhat softer target.
    Speculation of course.

  • robert says:

    How long before the barrier around southern Sadr City is finished?

  • Matthew (in Aus) says:

    Hi Bill,
    Just a quick question about the location of Al-Quds Street/Route Gold where the Americans are building the barrier. How far into Sadr City is this street located? Looking at google earth/google maps, there’s a main road running roughly north-west/south-east about a quarter of the way into Sadr City and another parallel one about half way in. I’m curious because it would be useful to know how far into the city the US and Iraqi forces have moved.

  • KW64 says:

    Bill — Aside from the 9th Armored division, what kind of armor assets do Iraqi units have? In a dust storm, when our air assets cannot support them do Iraqi infantry and motorized units have anything to handle hard defensive positions they might run across?

  • Matthew (in Aus) says:

    Thanks Motown. I’ve been trying to follow the comments threads, but I guess I missed that link. Got a couple more questions for whoever wants to field them:
    First question: Are the US and Iraqi forces staying put in the south of the Sadr City barrier or conducting patrols/raids in the north?
    Second question: Bill, you said that the JAM was focussing on US forces. Media coverage seems to suggest that militiamen have been attacking Iraqi police stations and checkpoints…Are US forces supporting the Iraqi troops more closely following the desertions earlier this month or have the JAM genuinely switched their focus to the US troops? The NYTimes article of the 16th of April seems to say that the JAM was attacking Iraqi troops who were hundreds of yards ahead of Coalition forces. What do you make of that?
    Third question: have there been repeats of the Iraqi desertions which occurred during April 15-17 period?

  • Major John says:

    Basrah is quiet right now. The IA and INP are still working the place, but as someone earlier mentioned, the irregulars have gone.
    The IA and INP still have a period of consolidation to work through, and the local cops need to be rebuilt – but for now, things are a heck of a lot quieter than they were a few weeks back.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    US organization. Minus components not built yet and mostly truck mounted.
    Think of their Brigades as being US light infantry brigades minus not yet built BSBs and FA Bns.
    Although they officially man out at about 3,000 each, due to their leave policy, actual on hand is normally 2200-2500.
    They are getting over 8000 HMMWVs by the end-2009 and they start getting their FA next year.
    Note: They man their combat forces to 120% so as to offset their leave policy and have 90% on hand.
    As to Armor:
    The only tanks are in 9th Division.
    They do have battalions in the other brigades that have BMP1s, M113s, and MTLBs that are not in 9th but, they do not have the tanks.
    Also have DZIK3s, Otokar, and ILAV (cougar varient MRAPs) in many battalions.
    And getting BTR3E1s which is a M3 Bradley on wheels.
    Tanks is a politicaly sensitive subject in the region since they are looked at as offensive weapons, so they are building the APC components first.

  • Cables, dispatches and memoranda

    Cables, dispatches and memoranda for 5/2/2008…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Matthew (in Aus)
    The only significant desertions were from the green 52nd Brigade in Basrah during March. They fielded a brigade less than a month out of unit set fielding and 500 from one of the battalions broke and ran. Even the NYT mentioned that it was mostly new enlisted troops that quit.
    I have seen no other significant desertions. Even the INP 1000 man unit in Basrah only had 44 desert during the March fighting. No others reported since. The purge over the last 18 months has apparently been effective…
    The 1300 number being claimed included just under 800 local police and was also from the March fighting…
    Total desertions in Baghdad in March was under 50 in March, mostly IP and a squad of INP.
    Considering the reputation of the INP as being inflitrated by JAM, this is rediculusly low and militarily insignificant numbers. Less that 0.1 percent of the forces directly involved.
    (30,000 ISF initially involved in Basrah, since reinforced to 40-45,000. Baghdad has over 65,000 ISF…)
    Note: The training is to US standards but, they are short officers and NCOs across the board. 25 percent of the current IA was civilian a year ago…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Note: some of the US augments to Basrah have already started to return to normal duties elsewhere. Basrah is winding down…
    Except for Sadr City, JAM is mostly out of the fight. Very poor showing everywhere except Basrah, which they gave up after a week and Sadr City. Even the press mostly quit using the adjective “powerfull” irt JAM after the first week of April…

  • BC says:

    I’m an advisor attached to the IA in Sadr City…
    I can’t be too specific, but my IA Bn is doing well after a (very) shaky start. As the barrier gets built, attacks are dropping in the areas behind it, which are controlled in part by the IA. JAM certainly targets IA forces, but it is simply easier for them to go after the barrier emplacement guys (almost all US) because they are farther forward, and the shooters don’t have to climb a wall to escape back to their rat nests. They haven’t been very successful, and the news reports are generally correct in reflecting how things are going. Lots of JAM (or Special Groups, or SGC, or whatever it is convenient to call them) are getting themselves killed trying to shoot a tank with a rifle.
    US and IA forces are staying put behind the barrier, while services are restored and the area is being more fully secured and hopefully returned to something approaching normalcy for the civilians who live there.

  • Ricahrd1 says:

    Thanks BC, DJ and Bill

  • KW64 says:

    Thanks DJ.
    Maybe folks should be a little patient with IA units asked to go on the offensive with as little punch as it seems they have.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    No joke.
    It never ceases to amaze me how people seem to think all you need to do to build an army is issue a rifle and a uniform to anyone you can grab and send them to fight.
    They seem totally ignorant of just how speciallized and diverse the differing military functions are.
    E.G. My rate/rank in the USN was worth 30 college credit hours, my various other training plus that ment that I had 63 college credit hours from my USN training. And much of my rate could not be appraised because of security.
    The days of untrained peasent mobs being an semi-effective component of combat power ended over two hundred years ago….


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