Five senior Mahdi Army commanders captured in Karbala


Muqtada al-Sadr.

Iraqi police announced the arrest of five senior leaders of the Mahdi Army in the city of Karbala as assassination attempts were made on three police commanders in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The largest attack occurred in a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad, and resulted in more than 13 killed and 50 wounded.

The Karbala police announced the capture of Mahdi Army commanders Ali Abd Taan, Sayyid Munadil, Muhsin Sharea, Haidar Jouri, and Razzaq al Samma. The five men lead a Mahdi Army unit in Karbala that was behind attacks on Iraqi police forces during a religious festival in August 2007. The attacks led to the closing down of the festival and a declaration of a unilateral cease-fire by Mahdi Army and Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al Sadr.

“The group committed 721 murders in Karbala alone and killed dozens of Sunni Muslims in a number of Iraqi cities as part of their acts of ethnic and sectarian cleansing,” said Major General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the chief of police in Karbala. The Mahdi Army leaders tortured some of their captives inside mosques. The captured leaders claimed they were targeting Baathists loyal to Saddam Hussein. “When we searched the background (of the victims), we found that only 11 of the 721 were in fact Baathists,” Jawdat said.

Ali Abd Taan, also known as Ali Sharea, is the senior most leader of a company of 150 fighters, Jawdat said. He “led 150 gunmen who carried out arson and sabotage of many facilities, killed policemen and attacked the shrine of Imam al Hussein” in Karbala. Taan “is also a prominent leader in Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army,” Voices of Iraq reported. He has eluded attempts to capture him in the past.

Munadil was described as “the mastermind and most bloodthirsty in the group.” Sammak was the commander of the Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib Jihadi Brigades, a radical Shia militia.

The Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib Jihadi Brigades is a Shia terror group that became active in October 2003. The group is active in Karbala and Najaf, according to The Global Policy Forum, and has committed to targeting foreign forces and Iraqis cooperating with them. “It vowed to kill the soldiers of any country sending its troops to support the coalition forces, and threatened to transfer the battleground to the territories of such countries if they were to send troops.”

Iraqi police chiefs targeted

As the Iraqi police announced the capture of senior Mahdi Army leaders, police leaders were targeted in Baghdad and Nasiriyah. These attacks appear to have been carried out by the Mahdi Army.

The largest attack occurred in the Sha’ab neighborhood in Baghdad, a Mahdi Army stronghold. Iraqi police reported a suicide bomber rammed into the home of Nadhim Taye, an Iraqi police chief in Baghdad. Eleven Iraqis were killed and 64 were wounded, making it the largest attack in Baghdad since mid-April. Taye survived the attack, but several members of his family were reported to have been killed.

The US military said the Sha’ab explosion wasn’t a suicide attack, but an accidental detonation of a truck used to launch “improvised rocket-assisted mortars” at a US base in the region. Mahdi Army fighters rig mortars in the fashion to extend the range of the weapons. The US military said 18 Iraqis were killed and 29 were wounded in the explosion.

Another attack was successful in killing a police commander in eastern Baghdad. Colonel Thafer Ghanem was killed in a shooting in the Zayonna neighborhood in the New Baghdad district, a Mahdi Army stronghold. Activity in New Baghdad has increased since the Sadr City cease-fire between the Sadrist movement and the Iraqi government.

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, a car bomb was detonated next to a police building. Four Iraqis were wounded in an attack outside of the building housing the emergency police unit in Nasiriyah.

For more information on the relationship between the Mahdi Army and the Iranian-backed Special Groups, see US military killed Mahdi Army commander Arkan Hasnawi in May 3 strike. For more information on recent operations against the Mahdi Army in the South, see Iraqi Army interdicting Iranian operations in the South.

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

Tags: ,


  • anand says:

    Well done. This is the best way to do it. Quietly round up “rogue” JAM commanders, while praising the honorable Sayyed Muqtada al Sadr, pay peace be upon him, in public.
    That way “rogue” JAM gradually disintegrates. Muqtada has a public out since the people arrested are “rogue.”
    PM Maliki is stepping up.

  • Batman says:

    Whooaaaa, just a minute. If the large explosion was an accidental detonation of a mortar launcher used to target a U.S. base, then why was it next to the home of a police chief? Was he involved in attacking U.S. bases? Why the large discrepancy in the numbers of killed and injured? And how many of the killed and injured were bad guys involved in launching mortars?

  • Anyone know any technical info about improvised rocket-assisted mortars? I never even heard of them until reading this (and I’ve got 3 tours to Iraq under my belt). I did a search online that yielded only this story and another from a DoD press release in 2003 regarding Afghanistan, aside from some other random links that had only passing mentions. I’m curious how groups like Sadr’s militia are able to build such a device that has even marginal accuracy.

  • Anti-Herman says:

    Any update on country wide ops and order of battle? The maps showing intensity of ops are great but I haven’t seen one in awhile.
    Would not a “rocket assisted” mortar be rather easy to find and target?
    Maybe they were near the police chief’s house to make him look like a Mahdi.

  • Batman says:

    One wonders how Sadr can maintain his base if he is in Iran, and his leadership in Iraq is being rounded up.

  • mjr007 says:

    One would also wonder about the effectiveness of al-Sadr’s history of unilateral ceasefires.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I have more information on the rocket assisted mortars, including images. I will publish today, give me some time, I’m prepping the info.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 06/05/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

  • Maldain says:

    I don’t know but rocket assisted mortars seem to be fairly common. The US Army uses a 120mm version on our Abrams Tanks they make them in a range of calibers from 90 to 155 mm and seem to be geared more for smooth bore direct fire weapon systems which would explain why it would be near the target house in a city setting. If these terrorists tried to improvise a firing mechanism and didn’t get the breach correct it would make for a very nice bang and a few dead terrorists. If the breach held long enough for the projectile to launch it could do some damage to it’s intended target.

  • Five senior Mahdi Army commanders captured

    They were wanted by coalition forces for the failed August 2007 attempt to assassinate Iraqi police commanders. While failing to kill the police commanders, the madhi cowards did manage to collaterally kill 13 Iraqi civilians & wound 50 other people. (…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram