<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile Iraqi forces gaining traction against Shi'ite fighters

Iraqi forces gaining traction against Shi'ite fighters

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has reported that the Iraq Army and security forces were performing well in operations against Iranian-sponsored Shi'ite militias.

Officials said Iraqi security forces demonstrated enhanced skills in the battles against Shi'ite insurgents in Baghdad and Basra over the last month. They said Iraq Army and police units remained cohesive amid heavy fighting.

"We've had significant achievements in the fight against criminal groups over the last several weeks," U.S.-led coalition spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll said.

[On Tuesday, a senior Iraqi official was killed by a bomb as he emerged from his vehicle in northern Baghdad. The official was identified as Labor Ministry director-general Dhia Jodi Jaber, who had been the target of previous assassination attempts.]

Officials said despite early setbacks Iraqi security forces have taken control over most of Basra, long dominated by Iranian-financed militias. They said army and police units were also sustaining counter-insurgency operations in Baghdad's Sadr City, headquarters of the Mahdi Army.

"In Basra and Baghdad, Iraqi security forces have demonstrated bravery and professionalism and have made great strides in securing those areas where Iraqis were held hostage by those who oppose the rule of law and commit acts of violence that endangered innocent Iraqis," Driscoll told a briefing on April 27.

Iraq Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta said Iraqi and coalition security forces have removed hundreds of roadside bombs and other unexploded ordnance from Sadr City, with a population of three million. Atta said the operation has helped in efforts to normalize the situation in the eastern Baghdad district.

Neither Atta nor Driscoll discussed reports of Iraq Army and police withdrawing from positions in Sadr City in late April. The withdrawals were said to have taken place amid withering Mahdi Army rocket fire, which has also targeted Baghdad's Green Zone, which contains the U.S. embassy and Iraqi government.

Officials said the coalition and Baghdad government intend to follow up counter-insurgency operations with reconstruction in Basra and Sadr City. They said the government has allocated more than $100 million for Basra and $150 million for Sadr City.

The Iraq Army has also expanded its civil-military operations center in Basra, officials said. The center, which contains U.S. and British advisers, was designed to directs reconstruction efforts across the city.

In Baghdad, the U.S. military and Iraq Army have targeted the Iranian-financed Special Groups, said to be a splinter of the Mahdi Army. From April 25 through April 28, at least 42 Special Groups fighters were killed, officials said.

Over the last week, Iraq Army and police units sought to secure the Hyyaniyah district in Basra. In a two-day period, the Iraqi forces found caches of 60 mm, 105 mm and 120 mm mortars as well as rocket-propelled grenade rounds, RPG tubes, artillery shells and a 220 mm rocket.

"The Iraqi Army worked well," U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert Washington, a military adviser to the Iraq Army's 1st Division, said. "They met timelines and controlled their forces."

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