Mahdi ambush backfires

Bill Roggio:

Heavy fighting broke out between Coalition and Mahdi Army forces in Sadr City as US troops killed 28 Mahdi Army fighters after being ambushed during a patrol. Seven more Mahdi Army fighters were killed during strikes yesterday.

The 28 Mahdi Army fighters were killed during a four-hour battle in southern Sadr City after a US soldier was wounded by gunfire and US forces began to evacuate the soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad said. “The fire came from the portion of Sadr City we are not in – the northern neighborhoods – and militants fired at our patrol in the southern neighborhoods,” Stover said in an email to The Long War Journal.

During the evacuation, Mahdi Army fighters triggered three roadside bombs and fired rocket propelled grenades and machineguns at the US patrol. Five more soldiers were wounded in the attacks and two vehicles were damaged. None of the soldiers' injuries are reported as life-threatening.

During the battle, US soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division directed "a combination of weapon systems available," including munitions from a Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, at Mahdi Army fighters "firing from buildings, alleyways and rooftops" in the dense urban areas of Sadr City. "The enemy continues to show little regard for innocent civilians, as they fire their weapons from within houses, alleyways, and rooftops upon our Soldiers," said Colonel Allen Batschelet, the chief of staff for Multinational Division Baghdad.

The Mahdi Army took heavy casualties during the single engagement. "A total of at least 28 militants were killed in the four-hour engagement," Multinational Forces Baghdad reported.

Stover refuted reports that US forces used aircraft to attack civilians in Sadr City. "Our Soldiers have a right to defend ourselves," Stover said. "This engagement began as we were evacuating a US Soldier shot while on patrol in south Sadr City and continued as militants continued engaging US Soldiers. We are NOT targeting law-abiding civilians. Those targeted were firing weapons at US Soldiers."

...

This ambush was as counterproductive as those used by the Taliban. Mahdi army fighters who engage US forces must have a death wish. They should know by now that their cause is hopeless. The survivors better learn that lesson quickly. Sadr's best chance of survival is to take the deal Maliki has offered him. But, few people outside the media think he is very smart.

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