US Army detains senior Mahdi Army commander in Baghdad

The US Army captured a senior Mahdi Army military commander in Baghdad. The Mahdi Army commander led a 2,000-man strong brigade in the Karadah district in eastern Baghdad, Multinational Forces Iraq reported.

The US military could not release the commander’s name as they are still exploiting the intelligence information related to his capture, Major Joey Sullinger, a public affairs officer for Multinational Division Baghdad told The Long War Journal. The commander was detained during a raid in the Sumer al Ghadier neighborhood in the New Baghdad district, which borders Karadah to the north. US soldiers from the 66th Armor Regiment detained the Mahdi Army leader “while conducting operations specifically targeting him.” The commander was wanted by the government or Iraq for “for committing crimes against the people of Iraq.”

The military described him as a “high-ranking member of an outlaw organization directly responsible for roadside bombs, murders, kidnapping innocent Iraqis and rocket and mortar attacks.”


Arkan Hasnawi. Click the image to view the most wanted Mahdi Army leaders in Baghdad.

Senior Mahdi Army leaders in the crosshairs

The US and Iraqi military have stepped up operations against the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist movement strongholds since March 25, when the Iraqi government decided to clear Basrah of the Iranian-backed militias. Fighting spread to Baghdad’s Sadr City and the South as Sadrist strongholds were targeted.

The leadership of the Mahdi Army, which the US refers to as the “Special Groups” in an effort to divide and conquer the militia and entice moderate elements into the political process, has been heavily targeted. Hundreds of Mahdi Army commanders have been killed or captured in Baghdad, Sadr City, Basrah, Amarah, Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah, Hillah, Najaf, Al Kut, and other Shia cities.

The most high-profile Mahdi Army leaders killed or captured this year include Arkan Hasnawi and the leadership of the Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib Jihadi Brigades in Karbala. Many weapons smugglers, financiers, cell and battalion leaders, facilitators, counterfeiters, and other senior operatives have been killed or captured.

The US military killed Arkan Hasnawi during an artillery strike on a Mahdi Army command and control center in Sadr City on May 3. Arkan Hasnawi was a brigade commander in Sadr’s Mahdi Army. He fought against US and Iraqi forces in Najaf in 2003 and 2004 and has been linked to multiple attacks on US and Iraq security forces in Baghdad. He ran a network of Mahdi Army fighters in the Sha’ab neighborhood, just east of Sadr City. The US military and Iraqi security forces fought pitched battles against the Hasnawi network in February, and killed a senior lieutenant of Hasnawi and scores of fighters in the organization.

Hasnawi was behind the kidnapping of Shia and Sunni tribal leaders in Diyala province in October 2007. His network was also behind the kidnapping of six Sons of Iraq from a checkpoint in Baghdad’s Ur neighborhood on Feb. 7.

On June 6, the Iraqi military captured five senior Mahdi Army leaders, including Razzaq al Sammak, the commander of the Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib Jihadi Brigades, a Shia terror group that became active in October 2003. The group is active in Karbala and Najaf 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.” The unit is responsible for the murder of 721 Iraqis, many of whom were tortured while held captive inside mosques.

Operations ongoing against the Mahdi Army nationwide

The Iraqi government and the US military continue to pursue the Mahdi Army outside Baghdad. The Iraqi military, backed by US forces, just launched an operation against the Mahdi Army in Maysan province. The operation immediately follows an operation neighboring in Dhi Qhar. Operations are ongoing in Basrah province as Iraqi forces extend their footprint northward and eastward to the Iranian border.

On Saturday, US forces captured two Mahdi Army operatives in the city of Al Kut in Wasit province. One of the men is a “known associate of senior Special Groups leadership in the area” who, according to his family, “is heavily involved in Special Groups criminal activity including several attacks against Coalition forces.” The US military has captured eight mid-level and senior Special Groups leaders in Wasit province since June 3.

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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  • Cajun says:

    Bill: Good report. It appears senior leadership is being cut up and exploited. How does this new strength of the IA affect the status of forces negotiations? Maliki must play tough for the crowd and we want to draw down our forces. Are we reaching a point where Pres. Bush is militarily capable of announcing a withdrawal plan of combat troops while leaving a robust training, logistical and support arm. He is on the record as saying We will not stay one day longer than the Iraqi Government wants us. This would be a win/win for both he and Maliki but appears premature at this time. Sure would roil the presidential campaign.

  • Dan R. says:

    Dr. Nibras Kazemi over at The Talisman Gate blog has a take on Moqtada’s announcement yesterday that’s just a tad different from the narrative in the western media.
    I absolutely love the way that Dr. Kazemi consistently exposes the NY Times and the Washington Post for the slip-shod, partisan rags that they’ve become.

  • Trivr says:

    I’m also curious about the negotiations and would love Bills thoughts/analysis on them.


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