June 18, 2008 | FDD’s Long War Journal

Mahdi Army cell leader behind deadly Baghdad bombing

 Yesterday's car bomb attack in the Shia neighborhood of Hayy Hurriyah in Baghdad's Kadamiyah district was carried out by a Mahdi Army Special Group cell, and not al Qaeda in Iraq, the US military stated.

The bombing was the largest inside Baghdad since March. The Iraqi military indicates 27 Iraqis were killed and 40 wounded, while press reports put the number killed as high as 51, with more than 80 wounded.

A Mahdi Army cell leader named Haydar Mahdi Khadum Al Fawadi was behind the attack, according to intelligence information obtained by Multinational Forces Iraq.

“We believe the attack was not conducted by AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq],” said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad in an e-mail to The Long War Journal. Though vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices are a trademark of AQI, our intelligence, corroborated through multiple sources, is this atrocity was committed by a special groups cell led by Haydar Mahdi Khadum Al Fawadi.”

Fawadi is behind multiple attacks on US and Iraqi forces. He uses the deadly explosively formed projectile weapons, which are manufactured in Iran, and more conventional roadside bombs in his attacks. “He intimidates the Shia population with threats of violence and murder,” said Stover.

Stover said the intelligence indicates yesterday's attack was conducted to “incite Shia violence against Sunnis,” and Fawadi hoped to “disrupt Sunni resettlement in Hurriyah in order to maintain extortion of real estate rental income to support his nefarious activities.”

A Special Groups cell did take credit for the attack, said Stover. They claimed to have been targeting Coalition forces, but the closest forces nearby were more than 150 yards away.

While the attack has the hallmarks of an al Qaeda in Iraq strike, the type of vehicle used in the attack and the unknown origin of the explosive materials used in the attack, along with the other information, point to the Mahdi Army.

The Mahdi Army Special Groups have mimicked al Qaeda in Iraq attacks in the past. The November 24 bombing of al Ghazi pet market in a predominately Shia neighborhood in Baghdad, which killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 56, was carried out by the Special Groups. The terrorists packed a birdcage with explosives and ball bearings to simulate a suicide vest.