The Iraqi security forces continue to press operations against the Mahdi Army and the Iranian-built terror networks in southern Iraq. Iraqi police conducted a major sweep in the southern province of Dhi Qhar on June 10, while US and Iraqi forces target Mahdi Army leaders and weapons caches throughout the South.
Police detained 55 “wanted men” – a term used by the Iraqi security forces to describe Mahdi Army fighters – and arrested another 10 suspects during raids throughout the province. Forty-three Mahdi Army fighters were captured in the provincial capital of Nasiriyah,18 were captured in Souk Ash Shuyukh, and four more were detained in the Gabayesh district. Police also found an “advanced bomb” with a photo-electronic triggering device.
The operation in Dhi Qhar occurs as the Iraqi security forces have conducted operations north and east of Basrah. During May and June, the Iraqi Army has been expanding its operations along the Iranian supply routes established by the Ramazan Corps. The Ramazan Corps is the Qods Force command assigned to direct operations inside Iraq.
After clearing the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed militias from Basrah, operations have expanded in the province to into Az Zubayr, Al Qurnah, and Abu Al Khasib along the Iranian border. Az Zubayr sits on the road to Nasiriyah, which is a tactic distribution hub for weapons flowing from Iran to the Mahdi Army.
US and Iraqi security forces are whittling away at the Mahdi Army and Ramazan Corps leadership and infrastructure in the South. US and Iraq force made two significant arrests of Mahdi Army commanders in the South since June 5, while multiple large caches have been uncovered.
Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a Mahdi Army Special Groups operative “who reportedly had weapons caches in and around his home containing Katyushka rockets, AK-47 assault rifles and suppressors for various pistols” on June 5.
Coalition forces captured a “commander of an assassination squad in Basrah” during a raid in Baghdad on June 7. The operative is also a weapons smuggler and counterfeiter who is “one of a handful of Special Groups criminals who arranges transportation of criminals into Iran for training, and back into Iraq.”
Several significant weapons caches have been uncovered in the South over the past two weeks. On June 9 Basrah police found a cache containing seven large body EFPs, 15 smaller body EFPs, more than 650 pounds of bulk explosive, more than 330 pounds of C4 military grade plastic explosives, armor-piercing rounds, and other bomb making items.
On June 6, Iraqi soldiers in Az Zubayr seized 37 improvised explosive devices, 330 mortar rounds, 104 small arms, 20 hand grenades, 72 rockets, 3 rocket launchers and 17 RPGs. Also on June 6, Iraqi soldiers in Hillah found three assembled explosively formed projectiles, 10 unassembled EFPs, three RPG launchers, 10 RPGs, 127 blocks of C-4 explosives, 15 cameras, one magnetic IED, and two landmines .On May 28, Iraqi and US forces found and destroyed more than 2,400 pounds of munitions in Karbala.
For more information on Iran’s operations inside Iraq, see Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.