- Iraq spring fighting of 2004
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004
partof=the Post-invasion Iraq
caption=Marines peer over a building top to fix in enemy targets in Fallujah.
April 4, 2004– June 24, 2004
result=Indecisive (Major strategic gains by insurgents, U.S. manages to retain control of at least 60% of the country)
New Iraqi Army
flagicon|United Nations Multinational forces in Iraq
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Muqtada al-Sadr
Iraqi security forces:
Other coalition forces:
107 wounded [ [http://www.icasualties.org/oif/prdDetails.aspx?hndRef=4-2004 Period Details ] ] [ [http://www.icasualties.org/oif/prdDetails.aspx?hndRef=5-2004 Period Details ] ] [ [http://www.icasualties.org/oif/prdDetails.aspx?hndRef=6-2004 Period Details ] ] [ [http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/forces/casualties/2004.04.html Forces: U.S. & Coalition/Casualties - Special Reports ] ] [ [http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/060526_isf_chron.pdf Microsoft Word - $ASQISFChronologyMay2006.doc ] ]
casualties2= 1,342 killed;
The Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004 (
April 4, 2004- June 24, 2004) was a series of operational offensives and various major engagements during the Iraq War. It was a turning point in the war: before, the conflict was simply US/Coalition versus insurgents, but the Spring Fighting marked the entrance of militias and religiously based ( Shi'aand Sunni) militant Iraqi groups, such as the Mahdi Armyinto the arena of conflict.
The start of 2004 was marked by a relative lull in violence. Guerrilla attacks lessened in intensity while insurgent forces reorganized, studying the multinational forces' tactics and planning a renewed offensive.
There were two main causes for the start of the Spring Fighting.
The first was the rise of a hard-line Shiite cleric called
Muqtada al-Sadrand his militia, the Mahdi Army, in the south of the country. Muqtada al-Sadr also has great influence in the Sadr City section of Baghdad (Sadr City, which was Saddam City, was renamed after the invasion, in honor of Sadr's father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr). With the fall of Saddam Hussein, Muqtada al-Sadremerged as a Shia leader by zealously rejecting the US-led occupation of Iraq. Al-Sadr created the Mahdi Armyin June 2003. [http://english.aljazeera.net/news/archive/archive?ArchiveId=2913]
The second cause, probably the flashpoint for the conflict, was the highly-publicized killing and mutilation of four Blackwater
private military contractors on March 31, 2004. Five days before American troops withdrew from Fallujah after intense fighting on March 26, 2004(at which point Fallujah had already been declared insurgent-occupied) killed one Marine. The troops retreated to the city's outskirts. The four independent contractors were guarding food shipments for a U.S. base on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, when they took a wrong turn and entered the city. They were killed in a grenade attack by suspected insurgents, and their corpses were mutilated by cheering crowds. [ [http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/03/31/iraq.main/index.html CNN.com - U.S. expects more attacks in Iraq - Mar 31, 2004 ] ] [ [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/warriors/contractors/highrisk.html frontline: private warriors: contractors: the high-risk contracting business | PBS ] ]
Provocation and the start of the offensive
March 28, the U.S. overseer of Iraq, Paul Bremer, ordered the 60-day closure of Al-Hawza, a newspaper published by Muqtada al-Sadr’s group, on the charges of inciting violence against the occupation. The next day thousands of Iraqis rallied outside the offices of Al-Hawza in support of the newspaper.
April 3, Bremer sent troops to al-Sadr’s home and arrested Mustafa Yaqoubi, a top lieutenant [ [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/yeariniraq/cron/ FRONTLINE: the lost year in iraq: timeline - fighting on two fronts | PBS ] ] , sparking further protests.
April 4, Spanish troops clashed with demonstrators in Najaf demanding Yaqubi’s release, resulting in the death of one Salvadoran soldier and at least 20 Iraqis. It is unclear which side fired first. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3597887.stm BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Iraq protests end in 20 deaths ] ] The same day al-Sadr issued a statement calling on his supporters to stop staging demonstrations “because your enemy prefers terrorism,” reported the Toronto Globe and Mail.
“America has unsheathed its fangs and its despicable intentions, and the conscientious Iraqi people cannot remain silent at all. They must defend their rights in the ways they see fit,” the statement said, according to the Washington Post.
A day after the statement given by Sadr, violent protests occurred throughout the Shiite south, soon spilling over into a violent uprising by Mahdi Army militiamen, which was fully underway by
April 6, 2004.
Baghdad and the Shia south
The Mahdi Army forces began an offensive in
Najaf, Kufa, Kut, and Sadr Cityon April 4, 2004. They began by taking control of public buildings and police stations. In Sadr Cityin Baghdad, Iraqi police were expelled from three stations. Members of the newly arrived 1st Cavalry Division were sent out to retake them. Militamen ambushed the U.S. forces and eight U.S. troops were killed, and 51 more wounded in the bloody battle. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2004/04/06/iraq_casualties040406.html Fighting kills dozens of Iraqis, 8 U.S. soldiers ] ] U.S. forces subsequently regained control of the police stations after running firefights with Mahdi rebels that killed 35 Mahdi Army militiamen. Mahdi Army members still maintained some influence over many of the slum areas of Sadr City, however. The fighting was not only in Sadr City, instead, it spread to other parts of Baghdad throughout the month. The highway linking Baghdad with the western province of Anbarwas cut by the insurgents and resupplies for Marines in the province could only be delivered by helicopter.
The militants gained partial control of
Karbalaafter fighting there. Other coalition forces came under attack: in Nasiriyahtwo Italian armored vehicles were destroyed, and British forces came under fire in Amarahand Basra. Najafand Kufawere seized by militiamen on April 6, 2004after a few firefights with Spanish and Salvadoran troops. Kutwas seized on the next day after clashes with Ukrainian troops, mainly on the Tigris Riverbridge. On the same day, Karbala came under full Mahdi Army control. [ [http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/04/iraq.main/index.html CNN.com - Seven U.S. troops die in Baghdad fighting - Apr 4, 2004 ] ] [ [http://www.poe-news.com/stories.php?poeurlid=000033743 Al-Sadr supporters take over Najaf ] ]
April 9, 2004, exactly a year to the day after the statue of Saddam Hussein was symbolically torn down, the US-led forces lost control of all the parts of Iraq that had been gained in the year since that event. [ [http://debka.com/article.php?aid=825 DEBKAfile - US Troops Pull out of Major Centers as Iraqi Security Forces and Interim Government Buckle ] ]
One notable battle during the fighting in Baghdad was on
April 9, 2004. An American fuel convoy came under attack near the Baghdad International Airport. In what was described as a 5-mile long ambush, the 26-vehicle serial was pummeled by gunfire, mortar rounds and RPGs, disabling many of the civilian fuel tankers and Army vehicles. A total of 12 people from the convoy were killed: 2 American soldiers, 7 American private truck drivers and 3 Iraqi truck drivers. Another five American soldiers and 3 American truck drivers were wounded. Almost the entire convoy was destroyed. The number of insurgent casualties in the ambush is unknown. One American soldier, Pfc. Keith Matthew Maupin, and an American truck driver, Thomas Hamill, were captured. Hamill managed to escape from his captors on May 2, 2004. The body of one of the drivers, Timothy Bell, was never recovered. Maupin was reported executed, with a gunshot to the head, on June 28, 2004. Remains were recovered March 20, 2008 and verified as Maupin's through DNA analysis.
After sporadic clashes, Coalition forces temporarily suppressed most militia activity in
Nasiriyah, Amarah, and Basra. On April 16, Kut was retaken by US forces, and several dozen Mahdi Army members were killed in the battle. However, the area around Najaf and Kufa, as well as Karbala remained under the control of Sadr's forces. Sadr himself was believed to be in hiding in Najaf. Coalition troops put a cordon of 2,500 troops around Najaf, but reduced the number of forces to pursue negotiations with the Mahdi Army. At the beginning of May, coalition forces estimated that there were 200-500 militants still present in Karbala, 300-400 in Diwaniyah, an unknown number still left in Amarah and Basra, and 1,000-2,000 still holed up in the Najaf- Kufaregion.
Al Anbar operations
First Battle of Fallujah
Coincidentally, the offensive against
Fallujahstarted on the same day that the Shia uprising began. In response to the killing of the four Americans on March 31and intense political pressure, the U.S. Marines commenced Operation Vigilant Resolve. They surrounded the city with the intent of capturing the individuals responsible for the killings, as well as others in the region who might have been involved in the insurgency or terrorist activities. It was planned that the Iraqi National Guardwould fight alongside the U.S. Marines in the operation, but on the dawn of the invasion they discarded their uniforms and deserted. Heavy fighting lasted until April 9, 2004, when, again under enormous public pressure, the offensive was called off because of great civilian losses. At that point, the Marines had only managed to gain control of about 25 percent of the city.
Battle of Ramadi
During the fighting in Anbar there was also a major insurgent attack on the city of Ramadi on
April 6, 2004, which began when a force of 300 insurgents attacked Marine patrols throughout the city in an attempt to relieve pressure on Fallujah. In heavy street fighting over four days 16 U.S. Marines and an estimated 250 insurgents were killed. [cite web|url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-07-12-ramadi_x.htm|title=Fight for Ramadi exacts heavy toll on Marines]
Battle of Husaybah
Immediately following the Battle of Ramadi there was another insurgent attack on the town of Husaybah on the Syrian border on
April 17, 2004. Like in Ramadi, insurgents attacked the Marine garrisonand were repulsed; 5 Marines and 150 insurgents were killed.
Fallujah peace attempts
The occupying force in Fallujah on
April 9allowed more than 70,000 women, children and elderly residents to leave the besieged city, reportedly also allowing males of military age to leave.
April 10, the U.S. military declared a unilateral truceto allow for humanitariansupplies to enter Fallujah, and pulled troops back to the outskirts of the city. Local sheikhsand imamsrefused to honor the cease-fire agreement, and repeatedly sent mujahideenfighters to attack the Marines. In violation of the Geneva Convention, the city's main hospital was closed by marines, preventing its use, and a sniper was placed on top of the hospital's water tower. There were also numerous reports of the use of cluster bombsby American forces in Fallujah during this time.
The U.S. forces sought to negotiate a settlement, but promised to restart the offensive to retake the city if one was not reached. Military commanders said their goal in the siege was to capture those responsible for the numerous deaths of American and Iraqi security personnel. As the siege continued, insurgents continued to conduct hit-and-run attacks on U.S. Marine positions, despite the fact that U.S. Marines were under a unilateral
ceasefire. It was also reported that the Marines wanted a cease-firebecause they were not being resupplied, due to the insurgent capture of the main highway from Baghdadto Anbar.
May 1, 2004U.S. forces withdrew completely from the city, and control of the city was turned over to the Fallujah Brigade (which was under control of a general who had served under Saddam Hussein). The brigade soon allied itself with the insurgents and the city was effectively under insurgent control. Between 731 and 800 Iraqis were killed during the siege of the city, at least 184 of them insurgents, and at least 27 American Marines also died. Soon afterwards, many towns in Anbarprovince - such as Karabilah, Sada, Romania, Ubaydi, Haqlaniyah, Hit, Baghdadi, Haditha, as well as numerous smaller villages - came under insurgent control.
Foreign hostages in Iraq"
It is at this time during the war that
kidnapping, and in some cases beheadings, emerged as another insurgent tactic. Foreign civilians bore the brunt of the kidnappings, although some U.S. military personnel were also targeted. After kidnapping the victim, the insurgents typically made some sort of demand of the government of the hostage's nation and gave a time limit for the demand to be carried out, often 72 hours. Beheading was often threatened if the government fails to heed the wishes of the hostage takers. Several individuals, including an American civilian ( Nicholas Berg) and a South Korean ( Kim Sun-il), among others, were beheaded during this period.
Operations in May
May 4, following a breakdown in negotiations, coalition forces began a counter-offensive to eliminate the Mahdi Armyin southern Iraq. The first wave began with simultaneous raids in Karbalaand Diwaniyahon militia forces.It was followed by a second wave on May 5in Karbala, and more attacks which seized the governor's office in Najaf on May 6. Four U.S. soldiers and an estimated 86 militiamen were killed in the fighting. Several high ranking militia commanders were also killed in a separate raid by US Army Special Operationsunits.
May 8, U.S. forces launched a follow-up offensive into Karbala, launching a two-pronged attack into the city. U.S tanks also launched an incursioninto Sadr City. At the same time, perhaps as a diversionary tactic, hundreds of Mahdi Army insurgents swept through Basra, firing on British patrols and seizing parts of the city. Two militants were killed and several British troops were wounded.
May 24, after suffering heavy losses in weeks of fighting, Mahdi Army forces withdrew from the city of Karbala. This left the Najaf- Kufaregion the only area still under firm Mahdi control, though it was also under sustained American assault. Several hundred Mahdi Army rebels in total were killed in clashes with American forces. Unfazed by the fighting, Muqtada al-Sadr regularly gave Friday sermons in Kufa throughout the uprising.
May 30, American forces withdrew from the interior of the city of Samarra, and encircled it. Insurgents took full control of the city. On the same day, insurgents also took control of Latifiyaand Yusifiyasouth of Baghdad, effectively cutting Highway One between Baghdadand Karbala, and the Americans responded by rerouting traffic onto Highway Eight to maintain contact with the south of the country.
Close of operations
June 6, 2004, Muqtada al-Sadr issued an announcement directing the Mahdi Armyto cease operations in Najafand Kufa, but the fighting in the south continued until June 24, 2004. Ironically, just as the Shi'aand Sunnioffensives started together on the same day, they ended on the same day. On the day that the fighting ceased in the south, a massive coordinated attack by insurgents was underway in the Sunni territories. In five cities - Ramadi, Baghdad, Mahmudiya, Baquba and Mosul - attacks were underway. In Baghdad a suicide bomber killed four Iraqi soldiers, but the attacks in Mosul were the bloodiest. Four suicide bombers killed fifty-six civilians, eight Iraqi policemen and two American soldiers. The most intense fighting was in Baquba, where, with precise and strategic attack, the insurgents attacked and took control of the main police station and city hall, and burned down the home of the police chief. American and Iraqi troops withdrew from the city, but after a few hours American bomber planes hit insurgent positions in the city at city hall, the police station and at the football stadium. After the air strikes, the American forces entered the city without resistance. Twenty-one members of the Iraqi security forces, two American soldiers and thirteen civilians were killed during the street fighting in Baquba. The only gain by the insurgents on this day was in Ramadi, where insurgent forces managed to take control and laid siege to Marine bunkerpositions. The city was under insurgent control by the end of the day. Some additional fighting was also reported around Fallujah, where nine civilians were said to have been killed. During the insurgentoffensive on June 24, 2004one hundred twenty-nine Iraqis and four Americans were killed. The number of insurgent casualties is unknown. [ [http://newstandardnews.net/content/?action=show_item&itemid=605 Baqouba Sealed Off as U.S. Forces Lose Control of City - The NewStandard ] ]
In total, the United States estimated that around 1,342
Sunniand Shi'afighters were killed, and approximately 430 insurgentswere captured. The USA, Iraq, and other allied forces suffered 383 killed. Approximately 2,500 American soldiers were wounded during this period. The results were indecisive. Most of Al-Anbarprovince (including Ramadiand Fallujah) as well as some Sunniterritory north and south of Baghdad, including Samarra, were effectively left under insurgent control. The United States forces managed to maintain control of Baghdad and other major cities in the Shi'a south as well as some in the north. Another uprising of the Mahdi Armyoccurred a month and a half later, and a bloodier battle for the city of Najaf unfolded. Also in November the Second Battle of Fallujah occurred which left ninety-five percent of the city in ruins. Four days after the end of the Spring Fighting on June 28, 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred control to a new Iraqi government. With this, the occupation was officially over, but coalition forces remained in large numbers in the country. On the day that the transfer of authority occurred, three American Marines were killed in Baghdad and one British soldier was killed in Basra.
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