Four Special Groups leaders captured in South

Coalition special operations forces have captured four Iranian-backed Special Groups leaders and operatives south of Baghdad over the past two days. Three of the Shia extremists were captured in Wasit province, the gateway for weapons smuggled into Baghdad from Iran.

Two of the Special Groups operatives were captured during separate operations on June 6 in the town of Al Hayy, a region about 30 miles south of Al Kut in Wasit province. The first raid netted an “Iranian-trained Special Groups leader suspected of directing and ordering attacks against Coalition forces in Wasit Province, as well as attacks and kidnappings against civil authorities,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. The Special Groups leader also smuggles “Iranian weapons into Baghdad, specifically Kaytusha rockets.” A second Special Groups operative was captured as he tried to escape a Coalition forces raid in Al Hayy.

On June 5, Coalition special operations teams captured the “primary weapons smuggler and financier for Special Groups elements” in the Al Kut region. Intelligence in the Kut region appears to have improved. Coalition forces also captured “one of the top criminal leaders” in Al Kut on June 3.

Al Kut is a strategic distribution hub for Iranian-made weapons, such as rockets, mortars, and the deadly explosively formed projectile roadside bombs. The Ramazan Corps, the Iranian Qods Force command assigned to direct operations inside Iraq, pushes weapons across the border from Mehran in Iran to Badrah and Al Kut in Wasit province. These weapons are warehoused in Badrah and Al Kut and distributed to Baghdad and cities in the center-south cities such as Hillah, Diwaniyah, and Baghdad. The Mahdi Army then uses these weapons to conduct attacks against Iraqi security forces and Iraqi officials, and Coalition forces.

Multinational Division Central deployed a Georgian Army brigade along the border in the summer of 2007 to interdict the Iranian ratlines flowing from Mehran in Iran to Badrah, Al Kut, and Baghdad.

Further east in the town of Al Mahawil, which is approximately 15 miles north of Hillah in Babil province, Coalition forces captured an “Iranian-trained Special Groups leader.”

Detentions of senior Special Groups leaders have increased since the Iraqi military began operations in Basrah and Sadr City in Baghdad on March 25. The US military believes Mahdi Army leaders have been abandoning Sadr City since the Iraqi Army moved into the district.

The US military has long made distinctions between the Mahdi Army and what it calls Iranian-backed Special Groups. The military makes these distinctions as part of an effort to divide the Mahdi Army and provide the nonextremist elements a way to end the violence. The Special Groups, which are Iranian trained, armed and funded, are essentially a subset of the Mahdi Army.

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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7 Comments

  • KW64 says:

    More grist for Maliki to discuss about Iranian interference in Iraq. I wonder if he shows taped confessions of these guys when the Iranians deny any involvement. Does he really need to repeat that exporting terrorism strains relationships.

  • Batman says:

    //www.captainsjournal.com/2008/06/06/iranian-sponsored-fighters-arrested-in-iraq/
    Have you guys heard this report that the Hezbollah No. 2 military leader was captured in Iraq? Is this as big as I hope it could be as far as intel?

  • Batman says:

    //www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2008/ss_iraq0215_06_05.html
    Here’s more. Wow, the complexion of Iraq fighting appears to be changing. It looks to be narrowing into a straight-on fight with Iran. I guess I’m not allowed to discuss, on this site, how that might affect political views on sustaining the mission, but I think it could be significant.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Batman,
    I’d wait for US confirmation on that report before accepting it. That is the first and only report I’ve seen on this issue. This isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, we’ve captured at least one high level Hezbollah commander in the past – Ali Mussa Daqduq (see //www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/07/iran_hezbollah_train.php for more details on Daqduq). The Iraqi security forces have been a little overzealous in reporting senior al Qaeda leaders killed or captured in the past, and I suspect there may be an element of this in the current report.

  • Terry Gain says:

    Special groups. Why isn’t the U.S. military calling these Iranian agents …Iranian agents.

  • Cajun says:

    Encouraging news. Either we have kicked the nest and they are running and leaving a trail to be picked up or we are breaking the rat line closer to the border. Could be both. If this continues Iran will be faced with a strategic choice of doublng down or backing off. In the midst of a presidential campaign I wouldn’t bet on the backing off option.

  • Alex says:

    I have been wondering, what is the status of some of the smaller militias like the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade? Are these groups still active? I know 1920s were merging in with the SoI back when it was still called Concerned Citizens, are there any others of note still?

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