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Thread: 250 Insurgents Die in Battle

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Default 250 Insurgents Die in Battle


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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Interesting that some Iraqi officials claim these are Shia "cults" and some are claiming them as Sunni insurgents.

    I'd wait a bit before making any judgments about this engagement.

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Oh, I'm not making any judgments and I know where you're coming from. I'm just stating that is a lot of dudes KIA in one day if the reports are correct. I'm not interested in who these guys were/are. Iraqi and Coalition forces killed them. Whoever they were they decided to stand and fight. I also love the way the AP gives the headline of the story then throw in "A Day in Iraq". They rarely have a single story covering a single incident. Just in case you feel compelled to celebrate or acknowledge a counterinsurgency victory they'll find a way to throw in that the insurgents blew up a PetSmart full of people and pets observing, "Bring in Your Pet Day Pilgrimage".

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Well, that's kind of the thing, isn't it? Is this a "counterinsurgency victory?" This Iraqi blogger doesn't think so.

    The official U.S. and Iraqi story about what happened in Najaf today, which was swallowed and propagated by news wires (and apparently also the New York Times), is complete nonsense. First of all, they can’t even decide whether they were fighting Sunni insurgents or a “violent Shi’ite cult,” as Reuters’ unnamed self-appointed expert put it in their story. Secondly, the U.S. and Iraqi descriptions don’t match and both contain gross inconsistencies; Najaf’s governor, As’ad Abu Gilel, who is a member of the pro-Iranian SCIRI, said they were Sunni insurgents, including Pakistani and Afghan fighters, plotting to stage an attack against Shia pilgrims commemorating the holy month of Muharram in Najaf, and to possibly attack the Shi’ite clerical leadership that is based in the old city, around the shrine of Imam Ali. Then he turned around and said they were local [Shia] loyalists to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, probably referring to the Shi’ite tribe of Bani Hassan around Kufa, which facilitated the assault by Saddam’s Republican Guard against rebels in the 1991 Intifada. (The Bani Hassan tribe is despised by major Shi’ite political parties, and residents of Najaf scornfully refer to their town of Al-Abbasiya, across the Euphrates from Kufa, as Al-Ouja, which is the hometown of Saddam Hussein near Tikrit. Many members of Bani Hassan also supported Sadrists in their 2004 uprising.) A U.S. military source confirmed that 250 “insurgents” were killed and several other militants were captured, including a Sudanese. An Iraqi security source, however, as well as the local Iraqi media, identified the militants as members of a Shi’ite splinter group called Al-Mahdiyoun or Ansar Al-Imam Al-Mahdi, which if true means the U.S. military was once again duped into doing the dirty work of SCIRI and other Shi’ite factions – and, I daresay, Iran – for them.

    ...

    But, as I said, he barely has a few hundred followers scattered all over the country, and I doubt that he would come up with something as foolish as attacking Najaf, because actually it was his movement that has been under attack lately by Iraqi security forces, heavily infiltrated by SCIRI in the south. Last week, his main office and husseiniya in Najaf was raided and destroyed with several of his followers detained by the Aqrab (Scorpion) Brigade of Interior Ministry Commandos. The same happened to his offices in Basrah, Amara and Karbala, days ago. Al-Hassan himself was placed under house arrest in Tannumah, Basrah, by the Iraqi government some months ago.

    I suspect this whole campaign is a result of Al-Hassan’s strange, unorthodox teachings and his defiance of the mainstream Shi’ite religious and political institution, including, most importantly, Iran. The movement’s detractors claim the group has engaged in obscene behaviour such as walking naked in public or hosting group sex orgies in husseiniyas and mosques, in order to “provoke” the Imam Al-Mahdi to return, or that they are Saddam loyalists who were planted just before the war by the regime to undermine the Najaf clerical authority, with some even claiming the group is Israeli or supported by US. radical Christian movements.

    The “preemptive” crackdown against Al-Hassan – like that against Mahmoud Al-Sarkhi months ago, which I wrote about here – bears all the signs of U.S. Shi’ite allies (SCIRI and Da’wa) fooling the U.S. into supporting them in their intra-Shi’ite struggle to control the south. This is even more shocking because these “cults,” as crazy as they may sound, have never carried arms or posed a threat to anyone; their activities are restricted to theological debate and polemics with other Shi’ite clerics and movements. The fact that they may have a few armed followers means nothing. Virtually everyone in Iraq is armed to the teeth. This might actually turn out to be a massacre against some harmless cultists. If true, then congratulations to the U.S. for carrying out Iran’s dirty deeds in Iraq yet again.
    It certainly doesn't sound plausible that over 400+ insurgents would mass in a single grove to be conveniently slaughtered by the Najaf police and army, which are wholly owned by the Badr Brigades. If so, it's one of the biggest single assemblies of insurgent forces in Iraq since Fallujah.

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Iraqis: At Least 200 Insurgents Killed

    The press is sticking to their story.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    It certainly doesn't sound plausible that over 400+ insurgents would mass in a single grove to be conveniently slaughtered by the Najaf police and army, which are wholly owned by the Badr Brigades. If so, it's one of the biggest single assemblies of insurgent forces in Iraq since Fallujah.
    Well something similiar did happ here back in OCT. Back in OCT about 150 insurgents (most were what we call part timers or recent converts) assembled in about a 1 KM area close to a large US FOB. They had several different staging points within the city area. They were identified by the IPs and IA basically getting overtly out of cars and trucks and loading up from large mobile caches. The IPs and IA did not wait, but opened fire on any who did not immediately get down on the ground. The area was later cordoned off and house to house searches rounded up the rest.

    How did this happen you ask? Why did the AIF treat the operation like a dove hunt? Well it turns out they were misinformed or maybe disinformed. Many had been told a story (possibly to embolden them) that the IA and IP would assist them in an attack on the CF FOB.

    Lots of stuff seized from that one - heavy mortars, DshKas, PKCs, Sniper rifles, etc - also seized was a target list with complete names of some IA officers they were to look for and assassinate (which incidentally the Ninewa Gov read aloud on Mosul TV ). It reminded me of an episode of "You've been Punked".

    This was a big morale boost as it was primarily an ISF success, but it never really made the news.

    About 2 weeks later the AIF gave it another try. They used about 12 teams of 15 men and conducted distributed attacks against ISF HQs and outposts. Again the ISF handed them a defeat - it was another good day.


    I think allot of the reason you see them mass is due to necessity. Its a matter of C2, quality of recruit and training (many of the guys we see now are green - the vets are in many cases dead or locked up - mostly dead). They basically have only a few choices when trying to carry off something really big with guys that who may fight well individually, but are not used to being coordinated - put them in mass and do Slim's #8 (mandatory Blazing Saddles ref.), or break them up and give them well known targets with a tee time. We've seen both up here.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    More info comes out. Leaning towards the Shia "cult" theory now, as opposed to Sunni insurgents as the Najaf governor originally said. Also the presence of families amongst the "insurgents." I wonder at the proportion of women and kids to gunmen.

    Women and children who joined 600-700 of his "Soldiers of Heaven" on the outskirts of the Shi'ite holy city may be among the casualties, Shirwan al-Waeli told Reuters. All those people not killed were in detention, many of them wounded.

    ...

    Some of the fighters wore headbands describing themselves as "Soldiers of Heaven," Iraqi officials said. It was not clear how many women and children were present: "It is very sad to bring families onto the battlefield," Waeli said.

    When police first approached the camp and tried to call on the group to leave, their leader replied: "I am the Mahdi and I want you to join me," Waeli said, adding: "Today was supposed to be the day of his coming."

    Other Iraqi officials said on Sunday that a man named Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni, who had been working from an office in Najaf until it was closed down earlier this month, had assembled the group, claiming to be the messenger of the Mahdi.
    We'll see how this plays out eventually. I sure hope American tanks weren't called in to do SCIRI's dirty work.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Cell phone videos now coming out on local and Iraqi news - if'n they were dove hunters, them was some well armed ones. Lots of other bad guys showing up down South - IPs grabbed an Afghani and a Saudi with suicide vests in Karbala, and I saw where some Yemenis got caught.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    LATIMES has the latest:

    Iraqi security officials offered conflicting accounts of the identity and motives of the heavily armed fighters outside Najaf, variously describing them as foreign fighters, Sunni Muslim nationalists, loyalists of executed former dictator Saddam Hussein or followers of a messianic Shiite death cult. Some witnesses reported that the attackers wore colorful Afghan tribal robes.

    The cause of the helicopter crash near Najaf was unclear, but U.S. and Iraqi officials said there was ground fire before the craft went down, and witnesses said they saw it shot out of the sky. It was the third U.S. helicopter to go down in Iraq in eight days.

    ...

    Iraqi security forces took authority over Najaf's security about a month ago. Witnesses and security officials said Sunday that Iraqi forces were being defeated by the enigmatic, well-organized fighters until U.S. air support and U.S.-Iraqi ground troops arrived.

    Shaky footage recorded by mobile telephone, broadcast on Iraqi television, showed Iraqi soldiers hunkered behind a berm as intense gunfire erupted and smoke rose in the distance.

    Ali Nomas, an Iraqi security official in Najaf, said the fighters belonged to a group calling itself Heaven's Army, one of several messianic cults that have appeared among Shiites who believe in the imminent return of Imam Mahdi, the last in the line of Shiite saints who disappeared more than 1,000 years ago. Nomas said the information came from interviews with at least 10 detained fighters.

    "Everyday someone claims he's the Mahdi," he said.

    Nomas said the leader of the hitherto unknown Heaven's Army had told followers that he was a missing son of the Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. Ali's remains are entombed in Najaf.

    "They believe that the Mahdi has called them to fight in Najaf," Nomas said, adding that fighters had converged on the Najaf area from other predominantly Shiite cities in Iraq.

    He lamented that Iraq's death and destruction had convinced some Shiites that the end of days was coming.

    "There's nothing bizarre left in Iraq anymore," Nomas said in a telephone interview. "We've seen the most incredible things."

    Najaf Gov. Asad Abu Gulal said some of the fighters were members of Hussein's Baath Party.

    Although they disagreed on the attackers' identity, Iraqi officials and witnesses offered similar accounts of events on the battlefield. Most of the fighting took place in farmland outside the city, which is home to Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Security forces cordoned off the ancient, labyrinthine city to prevent attacks on pilgrims, clergy and holy sites, the governor said.

    The gunmen, numbering at least 500, apparently planned to launch their attack today, the 10th day of the Muslim lunar month of Muharram and the holiest day in the Shiite calendar. But Iraqi security forces were tipped off Sunday night about their presence on nearby farms, Gulal said.

    Iraqi security forces struck at dawn but were overwhelmed by the militants, who had dug trenches on farms. At least two Iraqi soldiers were killed in the initial fighting, a security official in Baghdad said.

    Iraqi forces then called in U.S. air support as well as the Scorpion Brigades, an Iraqi quick-reaction force based in a neighboring province.

    Helicopters arrived, but after one was downed about 1:30 p.m., they were replaced by higher-flying jets, as American Humvees and armored vehicles rolled into the area.

    Three more Iraqi soldiers were killed, as were at least 250 of the militants, according to several Iraqi officials. Those numbers could not be independently confirmed. By 4 p.m., the tide of the battle had shifted, but U.S. forces continued bombing into the night in an attempt to stamp out remnants of the militants, Iraqi officials and witnesses said.

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    Default Iraqis: At Least 200 Insurgents Killed

    Something just doesn't add up. To mass Insurgents in Iraq on this scale would truely be a first. I don't think we are getting the full report yet unless the insurgency is beginning to matastisize. Insurgents operate on a very small scale relatively speaking. They lack the fire power, manning and training to engage in this type of large operation. In addition, the reports that women and children were present makes me question the validity and reliability of the story. Insurgents in Iraq are Men 18 - 40 years old. The story reminds me of my days in Bosnia when we received a report that there was a major riot in our sector. When we flushed the predator, we quickly learned that it was a broken down school bus and that the kids and community all came out to see what was happening. Time will tell but I suspect that there is more to this story than is being reported.

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    It appears that these guys stood and fought. The result was the equivalent of a large company size element of the enemy being decimated. Who these people were is moot. They planned on murdering innocent people. They got what was coming to them. And I for one am glad to see it being reported. What's the matter? Some of you guys afraid the counterinsurgency did something right? We got to look for dead women and children first?

    Let's not forget that the insurgents have lost the valuable asset of just not losing to attain goals. They have to win now. Seems some people are still trying to find reasoning behind fanatics. They had a reason for occupying the ground. We may not understand it. But it wasn't our reason

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    Default Sistani as a target

    I'll sidetrack this a bit and pose a question. What if this band of merry men, whomever they were, did get to Sistani and his lieutenants, and killed them.

    What would happen if Sistani were to be martyred?

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Culpeper,

    I have no problem seeing bad guys getting theirs. I do have an issue with relying solely on Iraqi government officials for sourcing, especially since this particular government is under the control of SCIRI, who are allied quite openly with Iran --- not our friends, in other words.

    Two brave American pilots died in this particular action. I'd like it if they died killing enemies of our country, not fighting one Shia faction's battle against another Shia faction.

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Culpeper,

    I have no problem seeing bad guys getting theirs. I do have an issue with relying solely on Iraqi government officials for sourcing, especially since this particular government is under the control of SCIRI, who are allied quite openly with Iran --- not our friends, in other words.
    He has a good question...

    "What would happen if Sistani were to be martyred?"

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    Default 250 Insurgents Dead

    Who these people were is moot. What's the matter? Some of you guys afraid the counterinsurgency did something right?
    I am not afraid that counterinsurgency warfare did something right, I am concerned that what we are seeing is no longer an insurgency. That it is changing right before our eyes. It may be becoming a full blown civil war. The TTPs of insurgents are not about large scale engagements--it just doesn't fit their MO. What may be happening is much different than a simple insurgency and our tactics and warfare will have to change accordingly.

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Welcome and a H/T...

    H/T to The Belmont Club for linking to this thread and a welcome to Belmont readers. From that post:

    ... Whatever organization these individuals belong to, they had serious firepower, as evidenced by the cell phone video and their ability to down a US helicopter. Their religious identity remains mysterious, what with the Afghan robes and reports that it was headed by the "Madhi". But bizarre events do happen in the Third World. It is not wholly impossible for a cult leader to assemble a group of people to engage in improbable behavior, whether it involves the Branch Davidian or the now-forgotten Lapiang Malaya. This article from Time Magazine in1967 describes that strange incident...
    More at the link...

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I'll sidetrack this a bit and pose a question. What if this band of merry men, whomever they were, did get to Sistani and his lieutenants, and killed them.

    What would happen if Sistani were to be martyred?
    Considering he may be the most influential person in post-invasion Iraq, I would dare to guess that it would have given those folks that don't know that an insurgency is a civil war, a pretty good idea of what a big civil war would be like. Sistani was very influential in the promoting of a fair election to create a new government in Iraq and has criticized the U.S.A. for not being democratic enough. So, to answer your question. The murder of Sistani and his lieutenants would have set off major chaos and human suffering yet seen in the region. And it would have been a major victory for the enemy.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    My thoughts exactly Culpeper...

    A martyred Sistani would, in my view, unleash the wrath of Shi'a backlash that would certainly send the country into the abyss.
    -mine from another thread.

    We'd see internecine bloodshed on a staggering scale, unless we interposed ourselves between the two sides. Are we capable of doing that?

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default News links on battle...

    I've been posting updates on the SWJ Daily News Links page - here. There are several blog links towards the bottom - more of both in the morning.

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    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Culpeper,



    Two brave American pilots died in this particular action. I'd like it if they died killing enemies of our country, not fighting one Shia faction's battle against another Shia faction.
    We're fighting a counterinsurgency war. It is an unconventional war. Not a conventional war. Your Commander-in-Chief has made it very clear any foe set on harming our troops or attacking innocent Iraqi people will pay firmly. This isn't Guadalcanal. Not in intensity. Not in tactics. Not in strategy. The goal of this group of enemy was to create such a level of chaos that the counterinsurgency would not be able to recover. The Americans KIA were fighting the correct enemy and not an enemy of personal convenience. And that is a fact.
    Last edited by Culpeper; 01-30-2007 at 02:06 AM.

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