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.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.