Battle of Najaf (2004)

Battle of Najaf (2004)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Second Battle of Najaf
partof=the Post-invasion Iraq

caption=U.S. soldier looks towards the An Najaf cemetery in Iraq during the Battle of Najaf
date=August 5, 2004 - August 27, 2004
place=Najaf, Iraq
casus= Uprising of the al-Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr
result=Indecisive (Negotiated ceasefire.)
combatant1=flagicon|United States United States Iraqi State Forces
combatant2=al-Mahdi Army
commander1=Col. Anthony Haslam
commander2=Muqtada al-Sadr
strength1=2,000 U.S. 1,800 Iraqi Security Forces
strength2=Estimates range from 2,000 to 15,000
casualties1=13 killed, 100+ wounded (U.S.) 40 killed, 46 wounded (Iraqi Security Forces)
casualties2=159 killed,, 261 captured
The Battle of Najaf was fought between U.S. and Iraqi forces on one side and the Islamist Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr on the other in the Iraqi city of Najaf in August 2004.


On July 31, 2004 the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), under the Polish-led Multinational Division Central-South (MND-CS), assumed operational control of An Najaf and Al-Qadisiyyah provinces from Task Force Dragon, which was composed of elements of the 1st Infantry Division. Task Force Dragon had earlier (June 2004) relieved the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment who had been extended twice in Iraq.

The MEU and the Mahdi Army first exchanged fire on August 2, when a United States Marines patrol approached a maternity clinic located directly across the street from the home of Muqtada al-Sadr on the outskirts of the city. The clinic was in an area authorized for U.S. presence under a June cease-fire agreement brokered between coalition forces and Muqtada Sadr by the Governor of Najaf, other local civic leaders, and the Bayt al-Shia (the informal council of senior Shia clerics). Both sides withdrew to their respective strongholds soon afterwards.

The Battle

Major conflict began on August 5, when the Mahdi Army (MA) attacked an Iraqi Police Station at 1 am. Their first attack was repelled but the MA regrouped and attacked again at 3 am. Soon after, a quick reaction force (QRF) from the MEU was dispatched at the request of the governor of An Najaf. Around 11 am the QRF came under heavy machine gun and mortar fire from the Mahdi Army within the Wadi as-Salaam, the largest cemetery in the Muslim world.

A U.S. Marine UH-1N helicopter was shot down by small-arms fire on the second day of the fighting while conducting a close air support mission over enemy positions. Four U.S. military personnel were killed during the heavy street battles fought between the Mahdi Army and U.S. and Iraqi forces, until the MEU withdrew temporarily on August 7. On August 9 the U.S. added three battalions to the battle:
*1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division
*2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division
*1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

During the fighting half a dozen U.S. Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles were damaged or disabled by insurgent RPG fire in the narrow streets. One UH-1N helicopter was also shot down without loss of its crew.

Fighting began in the city centre and then moved through the cemetery. After several days the fighting shifted to the environs of the Imam Ali Mosque when the Mahdi Army withdrew and took refuge there. United States Marines from the MEU encircled the complex and began a siege. The fighting damaged two of the minarets of the mosque, one of the holiest of all Shiite shrines. (Although neighboring buildings suffered considerable damage, the mosque itself suffered only superficial damage from stray bullets and shrapnel).

On August 23 at least 15 explosions, many sounding like artillery shells, rocked the area, as shrapnel fell in the courtyard of the gold-domed mosque and gunfire echoed through the alleyways. On August 26, 2004, two F-16s flying out of Balad dropped four 2000 pound JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) on two hotels near the shrine which were being used by the insurgents. The successful airstrike dealt a devastating blow to Sadr and led to a hasty settlement with Sistani the following morning.

Negotiated ceasefire

The battle ended on August 27, 2004 with a ceasefire: both U.S. forces and Mahdi Army agreed to withdraw from the city; Mahdi army fighters surrendered their weapons before leaving and none of them were detained; and the Iraqi police took control of the security in the city. A large number of MA fighters from Najaf went to Sadr City in Baghdad, where there had also been heavy fighting, to help the Mahdi Army in their guerrilla activities against U.S and Iraqi forces. A final agreement between the U.S. and Muqtada al-Sadr was reached by the end of September and fighting ceased in early October.


* [ Iraqi, U.S. forces battle al-Sadr's militia] CNN, Aug 5, 2004
* [ 11th MEU Press Release] USMC, July 31, 2004
* [ 11th MEU Press Release] USMC, August 2, 2004
* [ 11th MEU Press Release] USMC, August 5, 2004
* [ 11th MEU Press Release] USMC, August 5, 2004
* [ 11th MEU Press Release] USMC, August 7, 2004
* [ 11th MEU Press Release] USMC, August 9, 2004

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