Iraq: 11 Special Groups Operatives Killed in Al Kut
4:10 PM, Dec 27, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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U.S. and Iraq forces continue to target the Iranian-backed Special Groups in southern and central Iraq. The latest raid in Al Kut in Wasit province resulted in 11 Special Groups fighters killed, Multinational Forces Iraq reported. Al Kut, a logistical hub for the Special Groups and center of power for Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army, has seen an uptick in activity over the past two weeks.
Today's raid in Al Kut targeted "a Special Groups criminal element member reportedly responsible for attacks against Coalition forces and supporters of Coalition forces" who "was also reportedly an associate of criminal element leaders involved in attacks on Coalition forces."
Coalition Special Forces teams, likely the hunter-killer teams of Task Force 88, took fire as they approached the objective, "returned fire, and called for supporting aircraft to engage." Multinational Forces Iraq estimated 11 Special Groups fighters were killed in the strike.
The Iraqi Army has been reported to have moved into Al Kut in force, according to Voices of Iraq. Muqtada al Sadr's office in Al Kut stated that U.S. forces fought the Mahdi Army in the city, and four Mahdi fighters were killed and three wounded.
The incident highlights the fractured nature of the Mahdi Army, and the interconnectedness of Mahdi Army forces and Iran's Qods Force, which support Sadr and elements of his Mahdi Army. The Special Groups are made up of elements of Sadr's Mahdi Army, which trains, arms, and funds the attacks inside Iraq. Sadr called for a cessation of fighting after fighting in Najaf which resulted in over 50 dead during a religious festival.
Multinational Forces Iraq has repeatedly offered Sadr and his Mahdi Army an outlet to end the fighting and join the political process. In the Multinational Forces Iraq press release on the incident, Major Winfield Danielson pointed to Sadr's ceasefire while warning "criminal elements" that they would be pursued. "We commend all those who honor al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr's ceasefire pledge," said Danielson. "Significant progress has been made in the fight for a secure and stable Iraq, but dangerous criminal elements still exist." A similar warning follows every press release where Special Groups forces are targeted.
Al Kut is known to be a strategic distribution hub for the Special Groups supply lines from Iran into Iraq. Weapons, such as the deadly explosively-formed penetrator land mines, rockets and mortars are stored by the Special Groups in Al Kut and other cities, to be pushed forward to tactical depots to be used in attacks in Baghdad and the Shia South.