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.
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