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Posted: 3/27/2006 1:51:21 PM EDT
March 26, 2006
U.S. vs. the Mahdi Army
U.S. and Iraqi forces mix it up with Sadr's Mahdi Army at a Baghdad Mosque, around 20 Madhi fighters killed


Muqtada al-Sadr.

U.S. forces appear to have struck at Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite Madhi Army at a "husseiniya" (a Shi’ite house of worship) in Baghdad. Belmont Club rounds up reports from Zayed at Healing Iraq and the BBC. The Washington Post also reports on the event but states Iraqi forces were involved in the battle. U.S. military has yet to confirm the incident. The news accounts indicate anywhere from 18 to 21 Madhi militiamen were killed during the raid. No word on any U.S or Iraqi Army casualties. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Sadr's home in Najaf was the target of a mortar attack.

The impending fight against the Shiite militias, and particularly Sadr's Mahdi Army, has been telegraphed for some time. On March 18, Strategy Page predicted the ensuing conflict:


The U.S. has told Iran that the Iraqi Shia militias being supported by Iran (the Sadr and Badr organizations) are going to get taken apart soon, and Iran is well advised to back off when this happens. Hardliners in the already hard line Iranian government, have been helping Badr, Sadr and smaller groups, in order to keep the atmosphere hostile for the United States in Iraq. This has not been particularly popular in Iraq, because it's obvious that the Americans chased Saddam out of power, and made it possible for Shia to run the country. But to old school Iranian Islamic radicals, hating and hurting the United States is more important than anything else.


Earlier this week, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, accused Iran of sponsoring the Shiite militias and inciting sectarian violence, and alluded to a future reckonning with the militias; "The militias haven't been focused on decisively yet. . . . That will be tough," Ambassador Khalilzad said. "More Iraqis in Baghdad are dying -- if you look at the recent period of two, three weeks -- from the militia attacks than from the terrorist car bombings." On Saturday, Ambassador Khalilzad indicated "The militias need to be under control."

The Washington Post reports U.S. forces have also "raided an Interior Ministry building and arrested 40 policemen after discovering 17 non-Iraqi prisoners in the facility. Police 1st Lt. Thayer Mahmoud said the arrested police were being held for investigation, but the reason was not known. Mahmoud said the U.S. forces remained at the building and were guarding the 17 foreigners." Meanwhile, 30 men were beheaded and dumped near Baquba. It is automatically assumed the murders were the result of Shiite militias, but the New York Times rightfully notes "The area where they were discovered is mostly Sunni Arab and controlled by Sunni insurgents. It would be very difficult for Shiite death squads to operate there. Interior Ministry officials said they did not have enough information tonight to identify the victims."

The move against Sadr's militia and elements in the Interior Ministry may be isolated incidents, or may be the opening rounds of a campaign to defang the radical Shiite elements inside and outside the government. If the move is a concerted campaign against the radical militias, this indicates the U.S. and Iraqi Army are calculating there is enough 'space' to take on a second front; the security forces can safely handle both the Sunni led insurgency and combat operations against Sadr's Madhi Army. Another possibility is the rogue militias can no longer safely be ignored, as their actions have now exceeding the threshold of tolerable violence and threaten to plunge the nation into civil war.

It should be remembered Sadr's Madhi Army was thoroughly routed in Najaf during the Summer of 2004, with an estimated 2,000 plus of his fighters killed during a U.S. and Shiite assault on his forces. Sadr may have a following, but there are plenty of Shiites who do not support his antics, including the most powerful Shiite in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani.

By Bill Roggio | Posted March 26, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 1:56:39 PM EDT
Sunday, March 26, 2006
US, Mahdi forces clash

Healing Iraq has news that a US force has clashed with Moqtada al Sadr's troops:


American forces clashed with Mahdi army militiamen at the Ur district (Hayy Ur), west of Sadr city in Baghdad. It seems an American force attempted to raid a husseiniya in the area and was resisted by militiamen inside.

Between 18 and 21 militiamen have been killed, and the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya was reported to be badly damaged in the ensuing firefight.

I was on the phone with a colleague who lived there and he described it as a battlefield. Apache helicopters and jet fighters are still circling the area.

Al-Iraqiya TV just aired some images from the husseiniya. 17 'guards' were killed. One of the corpses carried a Da'wa party (Iraq organisation) ID, and another carried an ID issued by the Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes.

Someone in the background was asking the cameraman to film grenades lying around the corpses, to which the cameraman responded: "I can't show our guys' grenades."

"No, these are American grenades," the man in the background explained.

"Oh, okay I'll film them."

Al-Iraqiya TV was very critical of the attack, and is describing those killed as martyrs.



The BBC confirms the clash.


At least 18 Iraqis have died in clashes between US troops and militants loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr at a Baghdad mosque, Iraqi sources report. The US military said it was investigating the reports, which came from Iraqi police, medical sources and Mr Sadr's aides. "The American forces went into Mustafa mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers," Hazim al-Araji told Reuters news agency, citing a larger death toll than the 18 counted by medical sources. AFP news agency said residents close to the scene reported hearing gunfire and ambulances, while black-clad members of Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army could be seen in the streets.


Update

Bill Roggio's post on the US clashes with the Mahdi Army are well worth reading.


The impending fight against the Shiite militias, and particularly Sadr's Mahdi Army, has been telegraphed for some time. On March 18, Strategy Page predicted the ensuing conflict:


The U.S. has told Iran that the Iraqi Shia militias being supported by Iran (the Sadr and Badr organizations) are going to get taken apart soon, and Iran is well advised to back off when this happens. ...


Earlier this week, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, accused Iran of sponsoring the Shiite militias and inciting sectarian violence, and alluded to a future reckonning with the militias; "The militias haven't been focused on decisively yet ...

The move against Sadr's militia and elements in the Interior Ministry may be isolated incidents, or may be the opening rounds of a campaign to fangled the radical Shiite elements inside and outside the government. If the move is a concerted campaign against the radical militias, this indicates the U.S. and Iraqi Army are calculating there is enough 'space' to take on a second front; the security forces can safely handle both the Sunni led insurgency and combat operations against Sadr's Madhi Army. Another possibility is the rogue militias can no longer safely be ignored, as their actions have now exceeding the threshold of tolerable violence and threaten to plunge the nation into civil war.



Commentary

Earlier, Zeyad at Healing Iraq had reported on the Mogadishu style desecration of a Sunni clerics corpse, as Sadr's men dragged his body around like a sack of trash. Zeyad said, "Note that life looks absolutely normal in the surroundings. You can see children running about, stores open, religious holiday flags and even a traffic jam. Perhaps Ralph Peters will happen to drive by with an American army patrol and enjoy the scene of children cheering for the troops, while wondering where his civil war is, dude."

Additional information in via the International Herald Tribune reports that Iraqi forces were active in this raid. The article details other actions which Iraqi troops have been involved with, but which required American backup. Bill Roggio has an update with finer grained detail on the units involved: "elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade..." with "U.S. Special Operations Forces... in an advisory capacity only." Plus some discussion on whether the building raided was a full-fledged mosque or a "prayer room". The participation of Iraqi forces is good news, as it suggests a that some Iraqi officials are onboard.

The spin is already in. The BBC is reporting "The American forces went into Mustafa mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers". Healing Iraq notes that even on tape an Arabic speaking listener can hear the cameraman saying:


Someone in the background was asking the cameraman to film grenades lying around the corpses, to which the cameraman responded: "I can't show our guys' grenades."

"No, these are American grenades," the man in the background explained.

"Oh, okay I'll film them."

Al-Iraqiya TV was very critical of the attack, and is describing those killed as martyrs.



So "martyrs" it is.

If things don't fall apart in the coming days then the crisis will probably have passed. But the reaction of the Shi'a to this attack bears watching. From events in the past, I don't really expect any gratitude to be shown by either Sunni or Shi'a leaders for actions taken by the US to protect them against the depredations of militias. There might be some "gratitude" but what's more important is simply keeping people quiet and safe. Just my opinion.


posted by wretchard at 12:41 PM

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 2:01:53 PM EDT
I am not going to read all of that.

If the bad guys are in mosque, or if a mosque is hiding bad guys or weapons...then they get a GBU...

Thats how it should go.

Anything else is garbage PC crap.

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 2:02:37 PM EDT
March 26, 2006
Iraq (with a U.S. Assist) vs. the Mahdi Army, Take Two
Multinational Forces - Iraq reports Iraqi Special Forces led the fight against the Madhi militia in Baghdad.

www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/images/baghdad_nima_2003.jpg
Map of Baghdad, click to enlarge. Image courtesy of Global Security

Multinational Forces - Iraq disputes the initial press reports (as well as the second hand report from Iraqi blogger Zayed) which claimed the U.S. military unilaterally conducted the raid in the Ur Hayy district of Baghdad, which sits directly west of Sadr City (formerly known as Saddam City, see maps). Note that in our initial post, we pointed out the Washington Post reported Iraqi forces were involved in the battle. If the target was a mosque, or a sensitive target such as Sadr's militia, it is logical that the U.S. would want the Iraqi Security Forces leading the fight for political and symbolic reasons.

The Multinational Forces - Iraq press release indicates the raid was "in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and Coalition Forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians in the local area." The raid was carried out by "elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade..." with "U.S. Special Operations Forces... in an advisory capacity only." Fifteen insurgents were killed and sixteen captured after a gunfight, and one Iraqi soldier was wounded. One foreign hostage was freed and a weapons cache was discovered. MNF-Iraq is clear that "No mosques were entered or damaged during this operation."

billroggio.com/images/maps/Hayy%20Ur.php
A close up of the Ur Hayy neighborhood, click to enlarge.

The New York Times refers to the target as a mosque, but then refers to it as a "prayer room". In fact a "husseiniya" can be a mosque, a prayer room or just "a place of Hussein," which may be adding to the confusion. The news report shows that whatever the structure was, it had a dual use purpose: "As night fell, American and Iraqi Army forces surrounded a mosque in northeast Baghdad that is also used as a headquarters for Mr. Sadr's militia, Iraqi officials said. Helicopters buzzed overhead as a fleet of heavily armed Humvees sealed off the exits, witnesses said. When the soldiers tried to enter the mosque, shooting erupted, and a heavy caliber gun battle raged for the next hour." Mosques and schools have been repeatedly used by al-Qaeda, insurgents and militias for bases of operations since the fall of Saddam's regime, and Sadr, who desecrated the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf is no stranger to this tactic.

The New York Times also reports Madhi Army militiamen were killed, but then alludes to the possibility those killed may not have been members of the Madhi Army as "Several of them looked well beyond military age." An eighty year old imam was also reported killed. Age certainly has not been an issue for involvement in an insurgency, militia, or terrorist activity, particularly in this part of the world.

While the details of the raid are being sorted out, the fact that Iraqi troops led the fight against Sadr's forces is a far more positive development, as this indicates there is backing at high levels within the Iraqi government for this particular mission, and perhaps for the dismantlement of Sadr's militia. The next few days and weeks will be telling. Will Sadr actively resist a full scale effort to disarm or destroy his militia, if such an effort is in the offering? Or was today's raid a warning shot? Sadr must be quite concerned, as must be Sadr's Iranian masters.

By Bill Roggio | Posted March 26, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 2:13:30 PM EDT
March 27, 2006
Powerplay
Jaafari's allies denounce the Hayy Ur raid while MNF-I disputes the allegations of an unjustified assault


Weapons discovered by the 2nd Battalion, 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade during an operation in northeast Baghdad March 26 to capture or detain suspected insurgents included two RPG launchers, five RPG Rounds, one RPG-7 sight, three, AK-47s, multiple magazines filled with ammunition, and one ammunition can with RPK heavy machine gun rounds. Click to enlarge. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Earnest Christian).

The political maneuvering has begun in the aftermath of the raid on the Mahdi Army headquarters in the Hayy Ur neighborhood. Jawad al-Maliki, an ally of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and spokesman for the United Iraqi Alliance, has called "for a rapid restoration of (control of) security matters to the Iraqi government," according to Reuters. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reports "Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr today described the killing as 'unjustified.' Baghdad provincial Governor Husayn al-Tahan said he has suspended cooperation with U.S. forces until an independent investigation can be carried out."

Reuters also reports Abd al-Karim al-Enzi, minister of state for national security, has decried the attack as a crime, inflated the casualties and basically equated the operation to that of a death squad; "At evening prayers, American soldiers accompanied by Iraqi troops raided the Mustafa mosque and killed 37 people...They were all unarmed. Nobody fired a single shot at them (the troops). They went in, tied up the people and shot them all. They did not leave any wounded behind." The United Iraqi Alliance has canceled Monday's talks on the formation of the Iraqi government.

Multinational Forces - Iraq continues to dispute claims such as those made by al-Enzi, and has photographs which demonstrate the "husseiniya" (again, which can be a mosque, a prayer room or just "a place of Hussein") did contain weapons, and that Iraqi troops were indeed involved in the operation. Omar at Iraq The Model provides further evidence the Sadr militia was in the room, and not innocent 'worshippers'; ; "However, the best evidence that proves that members of Mehdi army were inside the building came from a prominent Sdarist parliamentarian and spokesman of the Sdar trend; Baha' al-Aaraji told al-Hurra this evening that 'worshippers from inside the besieged husseiniya talked to us in person on the phone and asked for help…'. So I wonder why would 'innocent ordinary worshippers' have the personal phone numbers of parliament members and Sadr office officials?"


A Soldier from the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade secures a small weapons cache. Click to enlarge. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Earnest Christian).

It should be noted that the Iraqi politicians condemning the raid in Hayy Ur are allies of Jaafari and Muqtada al-Sadr, and the various other political groups (the Kurdish alliance, the Sunni groups, Allawi's secular party and even SCIRI) have remained silent on this issue.

The raid on Sadr's milita should not be viewed as an isolated event, but as part of the continuing struggle to form the Iraqi government. The issue of the militias, and particularly Sadr's Mahdi Army, as well as Sadr's influence in the government, has come to a head. Last week, we discussed the creation of the Security Council, as well as a potential split between SCIRI and the United Iraqi Alliance over the selection of Jaafari as prime minister:

The Iraqi Security Forces continue to take on more of the security responsibility. And in an encouraging sign of political progress, the Iraqi politicians have agreed on the creation of a Security Council designed to “give each of the country's main political factions a voice in making security and economic policies for a new government...” and is “expected to set policies governing the army and police, the counter-insurgency campaign in Sunni Muslim Arab areas and the disarmament of Shiite Muslim militias accused of sectarian killings.”


Two Soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade secure a small weapons cache during an operation in northeast Baghdad March 26. Click to enlarge. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Earnest Christian).

Also, there is talk that SCIRI may break with the United Iraqi Alliance and join with Kurdish, secular Shiite and Sunni parties to nominate Abdel Mahdi as prime minister. This would override the UIA’s appointment of Jaafari, and reduce the influence of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia is thought to be behind much of the Shiite-led sectarian violence. While this has not been confirmed, it certainly demonstrates the various parties are willing to discuss options, despite political or sectarian differences.


The initial reaction of Sadr and Jaafari's allies in the Iraqi government are likely a ploy to wrest further control of the Security Council and ensure Jaafari's appointment as prime minister. The opposing political parties, including elements within the United Iraqi Alliance, may be horrified by the stature Sadr's thugs are being given. The United Iraqi Alliance is by no means a monolithic bloc, and Jaafari's nomination was approved by a slim 64-63 vote. The Hayy Ur raid may actually serve to break the deadlock which has settled over the formation of the new Iraqi government, one way or another. And one has to wonder if that wasn't by design. As we stated yesterday, the Coalition has been telegraphing this move for some time.

By Bill Roggio | Posted March 27, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 2:24:05 PM EDT


Link Posted: 3/27/2006 2:38:50 PM EDT
Monday, March 27, 2006

Following yesterday's raid...
The Iraqi government, or more precisely the UIA part of it is obviously so outraged by the joint US-Iraqi army raid on al-Mustafa husseiniya that took place in eastern Baghdad yesterday.

Actually the reactions to this incident are so intense compared the reactions when 30 or 4 beheaded or strangles bodies are found on nearly daily basis in Baghdad in a way that it makes me question the intentions of this part of the government even more; this incident has received more attention and was met by more objections that it deserves, or to be more accurate; other more worrisome and tragic deaths in Iraq are receiving far less attention that they should be. Everyday there are new dead bodies found in and around Baghdad yet no one bothers to open an investigation. Why is this one receiving special treatment?
And please do not think that I'm talking out of ridiculous sectarian emotions, on the contrary, I wish I could see the government investigate every single death and bring those responsible before a court of law but unfortunately I do not see this happening.
The raid on the husseiniya is not going to be investigated because those killed were Iraqis or Shia, the government will open an investigation because those killed were Sadrists and because Muqtada feels this raid was targeting his militia and fears that letting this one go without making enough noise will probably encourage the Americans to carry out more raids.

Now let's check out stories from the various concerned/involved parties; there's the interior ministry and national security ministry which are largely based on 'eyewitnesses' and statements from Sadr's men in the parliament. These source claim that Iraqi and American soldiers stormed the husseiniya and murdered 20 armless worshippers (37 in another story). So called eyewitnesses told local media that the soldiers locked the worshippers in one room, lined them against a wall and shot them dead.
Of course the MNF website has a different story (hat-tip: fourth rail):



Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a twilight raid in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and Coalition Forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians in the local area.
As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire, Iraqi Special Operations Forces killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals.




Anyway, footage from the scene shows burned vehicles outside the husseiniya, empty smoke grenades and inside the place there were empty shells of BKC machine gun (the main gun mounted on most of the Iraqi army vehicles) the BKC is not a one-GI carried gun but is rather used as a supportive-fire kind of weaponry and if soldiers were to execute armless people this would not be their gun of choice because AK-47s or pistols could do the job with less noise and are much easier to carry and it makes more sense to think that this weapon was fired by the people who were hiding inside the husseiniya especially that this gun is abundant at the arsenals of militias.
Also the use of smoke grenades means the assault team was expecting-and likely encountered-resistance from inside the target building.
There's also the burned vehicles on the street which indicate there was gunfire coming from inside the building because the MNF report says that Iraqi soldiers were fired at "after they entered their objective" and it makes no sense at all to fire at the street behind you when you're under fire from the building you are already inside.

However, the best evidence that proves that members of Mehdi army were inside the building came from a prominent Sdarist parliamentarian and spokesman of the Sdar trend; Baha' al-Aaraji told al-Hurra this evening that "worshippers from inside the besieged husseiniya talked to us in person on the phone and asked for help…".
So I wonder why would 'innocent ordinary worshippers' have the personal phone numbers of parliament members and Sadr office officials?!!

Still, the most important part of the case is missing that is a statement from the defense ministry whose soldiers were the trigger pullers in this raid and the defense ministry is who can reveal whatever there's to reveal.

Right now the Sadrists are trying to make a 'national crisis' out of this case, obviously to make some political gains at the expense of their political opponents and to support their accusations against the US military and US embassy.
Today on TV, Jawad al-Maliki, a hardliner from the UIA denounced "the American atrocities that are aimed at provoking civil war in Iraq…" and I just can't understand how can a US raid provoke civil war? Could it be that those American soldiers were Sunni extremists?!

Posted by Omar @ 20:57
Comments (51) | Trackbacks (2)
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 2:45:20 PM EDT
FFS... Don't hide in a Mosque and we won't blow your shit up. How hard is THAT? Hide in a Mosque and we'll level it for you.

I don't know why these asshats can pick a fight with us over and over again, and when we go after them, they hide in mosques, hospitals, schools or behind women and kids and claims "SAFE"! as if this is a game, and when we light their asses up anyway, they cry foul! They're chicken shit! Why NOT hunt them down in their so called "safe zones"? It makes it easier to drop kick 'em in a collective fashion.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 2:46:39 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/27/2006 2:51:51 PM EDT by Pointman_M4A1]
As long as the bad guys are using/hiding/etc. a religious or medical facility for a military purpose other than religion or medical then it becomes a legitimate target, that's the Law of Land Warfare as taught by the US Military to it's troops.

So sucks to be them................

Too F'n Bad.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 3:00:16 PM EDT
Who really gives a rat fuck? Don't use your "church" as a sanctuary and we won't use it as a target!
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 3:21:34 PM EDT
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 3:23:39 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Pointman_M4A1:
As long as the bad guys are using/hiding/etc. a religious or medical facility for a military purpose other than religion or medical then it becomes a legitimate target, that's the Law of Land Warfare as taught by the US Military to it's troops.

So sucks to be them................

Too F'n Bad.



unfortunately, the media seem to have no grasp of LOAC, so of course, regardless of circumstances, we hit a mosque so we're bad guys.

according to LOAC we have justification to hit just about every mosque in the country seeing how they are a favority meeting/staging point for attacks. the enemy knows that it is very politically bad for us to hit them in a mosque.
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