Battles like this one near Najaf and Operation Turki Bowl begin to tell the real story of clearing safehavens and training camps in Iraq during the winter of 2006 before the so-called Surge
The fighting that erupted Jan. 28, 2007, turned out to be some of the fiercest of the Iraq war. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers killed 373 enemy fighters, and more than 400 surrendered. The U.S. Army awarded more than 100 combat decorations for bravery that day, including at least eight Silver Stars and a Distinguished Flying Cross.
No one knew about it.
by Don Kramer
With the trappings of World War I and II tactics and 21st Century weaponry, the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment's fight in January 2007 to recover a downed Apache helicopter south of Najaf stands as unique among Operation Iraqi Freedom engagements.
Counterinsurgency operations carry their own metrics, different from those that measure success in combat against an enemy who stands and fights. But by all military standards, Lt. Col. Barry Huggins' 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker battalion achieved a smashing success in what might have been the most traditional battle of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It ended in such a one-sided victory for U.S. and Iraqi forces that anticoalition media attempted to frame it as a "massacre" - until details came to light of the enemy's plans, detailed preparations and prodigious arsenal of weapons and equipment.
On Jan. 28 and 29, 2007, a fanatic and well-armed Shiite paramilitary faction stood and fought in southern Iraq against two companies of 2-3 Inf. augmented with engineers, 8th Iraqi Army elements and two Special Forces detachments, on a compound the insurgents had prepared for months. Riddled on three sides with deep trenches, high berms and antitank positions and protected on the fourth by the Euphrates River, nearly 600 Jund as-Sama', "Soldiers of Heaven," fired all of their considerable ordnance and launched one assault after another throughout the night in attempts to surprise and outflank the Patriot Battalion task force. For the Shiite fighters, they had begun an apocalyptic battle they believed would hasten the return of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam.
Jun 15, 2008
Combating Terrorism Center
Soon after the 2008 incident, the two Mahdist groups became mixed up in the Western media. There is, however, reason to believe that the cells that were targeted in 2008 had developed quite independently of the Najaf group. Styling themselves as “followers of Ahmad al-Hasan al-Yamani,” the group had a visible presence in Basra since at least 2005 . In the subsequent period it remained active in Basra and the far south, gaining adherents among former Sadrists and religious students, especially in Basra and Nasiriyya. In the wake of the 2007 clash in Najaf, the group vigorously distanced itself from the Jund al-Sama’ group, claiming they disagreed over interpretations of how and when the Hidden Imam would reappear .
Why would a handsome, fun-loving man from Birmingham, newly possessed of British citizenship, sell his profitable business and return to his native Iraq to die in a hail of bullets? Muhammad Hussein, never known as particularly religious, recently sold his barber shop in Moseley and took his wife and two-year-old son to a settlement near Najaf, where he was probably killed when Iraqi and US forces stormed the compound of the Soldiers of Heaven cult in late January. Muhammad’s charred British passport was found among the wreckage. In the final tally, 263 cult members were killed.
Before leaving, Muhammad told a Rivers of Babylon source over a couple of beers in a Birmingham nightclub: “I am going off to do humanitarian work in Iraq,” where “the Mahdi is about to emerge.” Many of the dead in the Soldiers of Heaven compound were found chained to each other, and it is possible that Muhammad did not know he was being recruited for battle.