Battle of Baqubah

Battle of Baqubah
Battle of Baqubah
Part of the Iraq War (Diyala province campaign)
Operation Arrowhead Ripper.jpg
Soldiers have a short meeting at an airfield in Baqubah before an air assault into an outlying village of the city, 18 June 2007.
Date 10 March 2007 - 19 August 2007
Location Baqubah, Iraq
Result City largely secured by Coalition forces
United States United States
Flag of Iraq.svg New Iraqi Army
Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq.svg Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Commanders and leaders
COL Townsend, LTC Antonia, LTC Smiley, LTC Goins Unknown
Approximately 700 combat troops and 2,000 support troops between 14 March and 17 June 2007, Approximately 2,000 combat troops and 5,000 support troops between 18 June and 31 August 2007. Approximately 2,000-3,000
Casualties and losses
22 killed, 40 wounded (U.S. Task Force Regulars March 14th-17 June 2007);
9 killed, 15 wounded (U.S. Operation Arrowhead Ripper June 18th-31 August 2007);
7 killed, 15 wounded (Iraqi Army);[1][2][3]
2 killed (U.S.-allied Iraqi militia)
3 killed (Iraqi police)
227+ killed, some 100 detained[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

The Battle of Baqubah (March 2007 – September 2007) took place during the Iraq War in the capital of the Iraqi province Diyala, to the north-east of Baghdad. It began in early March 2007, when US and Iraqi forces commenced preliminary operations to "establish a presence in Diyala beyond their Forward Operating Base".[17]

In June 2007 as part of a larger country wide offensive, Operation Arrowhead Ripper was launched to gain control of Baqubah and its surrounding areas from the insurgents.[18] Baqubah was largely pacified as a result of this operation although insurgent presence still remained in the capital and throughout the province.

In August 2007, Operation Phantom Strike was launched throughout northern Iraq in order to capitalize on the gains made during Operation Phantom Thunder. As part of this offensive, Operation Lightning Hammer was launched to the northeast of Baqubah.[17]



In late 2006 Al Qaeda in Iraq forces began a quiet troop build up in Baqubah, naming it the capital of their "Islamic State of Iraq". As a result of the Baghdad Security Plan, in early 2007 Al Qaeda in Iraq forces withdrew from Baghdad in large numbers and began furthering operations in Diyala province. The insurgents fortified the province with observation posts, fighting positions, IEDs, and booby-trapped houses, as well as establishing supply bases and training camps. The large majority of these forces were positioned in the city of Baqubah, which was of great importance to Al Quieda forces, having been declared the Capital of the Islamic State of Iraq. Military Intelligence templated the Al Quieda forces within the city at 2500 fighters, and an additional 500 support forces.


Battle for Baqubah Begins

On 10 March 2007, the 5th Battalion 20th Infantry regiment, under the command of LTC Bruce Antonia, began moving up from Taji to Baqubah to battle Islamic State of Iraq forces in their self declared capital. After arriving in Baqubah on 13 March, the battalion began combat operations in and around Baqubah the following morning. The subordinate companies of the task Force were each given an area of responsibility and tasked to perform reconnaissance of their assigned sectors. The insurgents were prepared for the American Strykers, having fortified the city with fighting positions and deep-buried IEDs. Minutes after beginning the offensive, an insurgent IED had destroyed a Stryker. Throughout the day, the insurgents attacked the Americans with IEDs, RPG fire, and ambushes consisting of both indirect and direct fire weapons. By the end of the day, two Strykers had been destroyed, one U.S. soldier was killed by a large IED outside of a school in Mufrek,and another 12 were wounded throughout the city. One element of Task Force Regular entered Buhriz which was under the control of the 1920 Revolution Brigades. This offensive was immediately bogged down by the discovery of over thirty IEDs in a two kilometer stretch of road.[19] Another tactic being employed by the insurgents in Buhriz, was a hit and run attack with RPG's and then quickly disappearing back into the palm groves. With the support of Apache gunships firing Hellfire missiles, U.S. forces were able to inflict between 40 and 50 insurgent casualties on 14 March.[20][21]

Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, conduct operations in Buhriz, 20 March 2007

A decision was made on 15 March to consolidate the task force and begin clearance operations of the palm groves surrounding Buhriz. What followed was close quarters jungle warfare more reminiscent of Vietnam than Iraq. The insurgent forces used a hit and run strategy, employing snipers, IEDs, prepositioned ambush sites, and escape routes. Insurgent forces were also confirmed to have fired at least one SA-7 missile at an Apache attack Helicopter, resulting in a very near miss.[22] After a fierce week long battle, Buhriz was predominantly under the control of American forces. While insurgents were no longer able to operate openly in Buhriz, there were still a small number of hit and run attacks, to include the use of IED's, small arms, and snipers in this neighborhood. One such Sniper attack, on 24 May 2007 resulted in the death of a soldier from Task Force Regulars.

Over the next two months, a task force built around the 5-20 INF battalion which had expanded to include Bronco Troop 1-14 Cavalry and two companies (A and B) of the 1st battalion, 12th Cavalry, systematically cleared the Eastern Half of Baqubah, and some of its outlying villages in the toughest fighting the battalion experienced during its 15-month deployment

A soldier assigned to the 1st Platoon, Company B, 1-12 Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, guards a street in the neighborhood of Tahrir in Baqubah, Iraq, 28 March 2007

The heavily fortified, and well defended Al-Qaeda controlled neighborhoods of Tahrir and New Baqubah were the next to be taken by American forces. The offensive's forward progression was again slowed by the use of large ambushes initiated by deep buried IEDs, or vehicle born explosive devices. One such ambush, on 5 April, resulted in a Bradley fighting vehicle being destroyed, and the death of one American soldier. Of note, Army medic Christopher Waiters was eventually awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions that day which saved the lives of two additional American soldiers in the destroyed Bradley vehicle.[23][24] Another similar attack initiated by a large deep buried IED killed six American soldiers in a Stryker vehicle on 6 May 2007.[22][25] The house to house fighting seen in eastern Baqubah during this offensive was the fiercest fighting in Iraq at the time. Al-Qaeda in Iraq was pitching a last ditch effort to retain control of their self declared capitol. On 27 May while clearing Chibernat, a village north of Baqubah, Seven Iraqi hostages were rescued from an Al Qaeda torture center. While clearance of eastern Baqubah was being completed, Task Force Regulars was able to successfully isolate and contain the western half of the city, composed of Mufrek, Mujema, and Khatoon. Without adequate forces to clear this western half of Baqubah the commander of Task Force Regular, Lt. Colonol Bruce Antonia, requested additional forces to assist in that task.

Operation Arrowhead Ripper

In early June Lt. Colonel Antonia's request for assistance was answered. The 3/2 Brigade Command Staff and the Regular's sister Battalion the 1st Battalion 23rd infantry,Tomahawks, arrived. In June 2007 US and Iraqi forces launched a major offensive operation throughout Iraq codenamed Operation Phantom Thunder designed to secure the Baghdad Belts. As part of this offensive, Multinational Division North launched Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Diyala province. The 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division along with members of the 1-505th 82nd Airborne Division, launched the offensive with a quick-strike night-time air assault early on 18 June 2007. By daylight, attack helicopters and ground forces had engaged and killed an estimated 22+ insurgents in and around Baqubah.[26] In the early morning hours one soldier, from A co 1-12 CAV, was killed when his Bradley fighting vehicle was struck by a large deep buried IED just outside of an abandoned clinic on the Southwestern edge of the city. In all 30 insurgents and one U.S. soldier were killed by the end of the first day of the operation, according to military sources.

A team leader with Operation Arrowhead Ripper pulls security as an Iraqi man speaks to an interpreter, 19 June, in a village in the outskirts of Baqubah, 19 June 2007.

“The end state is to destroy the al-Qaeda influences in this province and eliminate their threat against the people,” said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding general, operations, 25th Infantry Division. “That is the number one, bottom-line up-front, in-your-face, task and purpose.”[27]

Approximately 2,000 American combat soldiers, with an additional 4,500 American support troops located on F.O.B. Warhorse, An Iraqi Army Brigade, 500 Iraqi Police officers, 155 mm Howitzer Field Artillery support, an almost continuous Apache attack helicopter presence, American and British close air support, Stryker and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, took part in Arrowhead Ripper.

“One of the keys as we initiate combat actions and operations here is the newly formed Diyala Operations Center,” Bednarek said. “It serves as an integration center that will coordinate all activities in Diyala – the police, the army and Coalition Forces from Task Force Lightning.”[28]

“The key significance, though, is getting the Iraqi ministries engaged to provide fundamental goods and services, such as food, fuel, displaced persons support, and education,” Bednarek continued. “The governor will have oversight and the people will start to see improved basic services which will build the trust and confidence of the people not only in the provincial government, but in the central government as well.”[29]

Throughout the clearance operations in Western Baqubah one trend continued to occur. The local population were overjoyed to be , as they put it, "liberated" by the American Forces. These neighborhoods, while under Al Qaeda control, had been subjected to Sharia, very strict Islamic law, with severe penalties. The local populace talked of things like smoking, women failing to wear appropriate facial and body coverings, or even placing cucumbers too close to tomatoes on your vegetable cart as being very harshly punished. This was the location of several Al Qaeda detention and torture centers, where punishments handed down by these Islamic courts where carried out. These punishments included amputation, eye removal, and death just to name a few.

On 23 June two suspected senior Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn leaders were captured and detained to Baghdad; no further information on their identity has been forthcoming. It is feared that most high-profile suspects have fled the area before the operation began.

As of 26 June, significant fighting continued. Insurgent casualties were given as 55 on 23 June.[4] Until 27 June, an estimated 5 more militants, possibly more, were reported killed by Coalition sources.[6]

By 28 June, fighting in at least parts of the town had ceased. US and allied troops were documented moving about in daylight and relaxed poses.[30] On 1 July, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and 3 others wounded during a raid on a town house,[31] but although there is some violence such as murders,[32] this generally seems civil rather than (para) military in nature and as of 4 July, there was little indication that the situation in Baqubah is different from other places in Iraq with significant MNF presence.

On the other hand, the town of Al Khalis, approx. 15 km away, seems to have become a major restaging point for insurgents retreating from Baqubah,[5][7][32] despite the nearby presence of significant US forces at FOB Grizzly and People's Mujahedin of Iran personnel at "Ashraf City".

On 3 July, MNF troops killed 25 and detained five suspected terrorists and uncovered 10 weapons caches during an 3-day operation at Mukhisa, NE of Baqubah, in support of Operation Arrowhead Ripper.[9]

However, fighting flared up again some days later, with numerous reports of casualties later that week. Residents reported that the shelling was intense,[33] and the Iraqi Islamic Party (ISP) has accused the Multi-National Forces operating in the area of committing a new massacre in Baqubah. "The operations led by the US forces in western Baqubah led to the death of more than 350 people, most of whom are still under the rubble," the ISP said in a statement.[34] The majority of American shelling and aerial bombardment that occurred during July and August was to defeat the overwhelming number of explosive laden houses, that were rigged and left behind as traps by the fleeing Al Qaeda forces. One such home was detonated on American forces attempting to clear it of insurgent forces on 6 August, and resulted in four American deaths. The US army admits that nearly 80 per cent of Al-Qaeda leaders fled the area, in June, during the initial stages of the operation.[34]

July 15 Aco 1-12 Cavalry engaged insurgents in the Mechanics area of Southern Baqubah, killing 2 and wounding 3.

July 16, Aco 1-12 Cav members were ambushed while patrolling in insurgent occupied areas of Palm Groves south of Baqubah on the Diyala river. Several friendly Sunni militiamen were killed and wounded by an IED that initiated the ambush.

On 14 August, the overall operation Phantom Thunder ended and operation Arrowhead Ripper ended 19 August. Baqubah was largely secured by Coalition forces, but still some insurgent presence remained in the city and surrounding areas, but not in such large numbers as it was before the attack on the city.

Operation Lightning Hammer

Lightning Hammer I was launched on 13 August 2007 as a follow-on to Operation Arrowhead Ripper and was subordinate to Operation Phantom Strike. The aim of the operation was to clear insurgent elements from the Diyala river valley and involved around 16,000 US and Iraqi forces. During the operation, 50 villages in the Diyala province were cleared, 26 members of AQI were killed and 37 suspected insurgents were detained. On 1 September, the operation ended. Lightning Hammer II was launched in early September.

Order of battle


In the city itself:

  • 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division. Commanded by COL Townsend
    • 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry. Commanded by LTC Antonia
      • B Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment attached to 5-20.
    • 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry. Commanded by LTC Smiley
    • Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
  • Elements of the Iraqi Army 5th Division (Iraq)

Supporting the main effort:

  • 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division
    • 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry,
    • Bravo Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment,
    • Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment,
  • 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 82nd Airborne Division
    • 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
    • Bravo Company, 2-505th PIR
    • 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry
    • Scout helicopters from B Troop 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 82nd Aviation Brigade
  • 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
  • 25th Infantry Division
    • Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
    • 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team
    • Attack helicopters from the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division attached to 25th Combat Aviation Briagde.
    • 72nd MAC Combat Engineer Company, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade

Islamic State of Iraq

Details of insurgent forces are unknown. Based on the number of attacks, and the level of control exerted over the local populace, American Intelligence templated the enemy strength in Baqubah at approximately 2,000-2,500 in March 2007. As the Islamic State of Iraq considers the town of Baqubah its "capital", presumably most fighters opposing the MNF troops belong to the Khalf al-Mutayibeen - the alliance of Islamist Sunni groups behind the ISI.

See also


  1. ^ Reuters AlertNet - FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, 1 July
  2. ^ Reuters AlertNet - FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, 14 July
  3. ^ McClatchy Washington Bureau | 07/11/2007 | Round-up of daily violence, Wednesday 11 July 2007
  4. ^ a b "U.S. and Iraq forces kill 90 al Qaeda in offensive". Reuters, 2007-JUN-23. Retrieved 2007-JUN-27.
  5. ^ a b "Qaeda fiercely resisting US-Iraqi offensive". Al Sumaria. 23 June 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2007. 
  6. ^ a b "Troops in Baqouba deliver food to locals". Multi-National Corps – Iraq Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory,APO AE 09342, 2007-JUN-27. Retrieved 2007-JUN-27.
  7. ^ a b "Iraq Security Developments - Friday". IraqSlogger, 2007-JUN-29. Retrieved 2007-JUL-04.
  8. ^ "Iraq Security Developments - Saturday". IraqSlogger, 2007-JUN-30. Retrieved 2007-JUL-04.
  9. ^ a b "Coalition Forces kill 25, detain 5 and uncover caches in Diyala". Multi-National Force – Iraq Press Desk, Baghdad, A070704a, 2007-JUL-04. Retrieved 2007-JUL-04.
  10. ^ a b Multi-National Force - Iraq - ‘Arrowhead Ripper’ continues to deny terrorists resources
  11. ^ Multi-National Force - Iraq - Coalition Forces Kill Four Suspected Secret Cell Terrorists, Detain Eighteen
  12. ^ Tuesday: 3 GIs, 1 Briton, 63 Iraqis Killed; 50 Iraqis Wounded -
  13. ^ Friday: 81 Iraqis Killed, 89 Wounded -
  14. ^ Saturday: 1 GI, 81 Iraqis Killed; 34 Iraqis Wounded -
  15. ^ Tuesday: 572 Iraqis Killed, 6 GIs; 1562 Iraqis Wounded -
  16. ^ Sunday: 125 Iraqis Killed, 78 Wounded -
  17. ^ a b Securing Diyala | Institute for the Study of War
  18. ^ "Task Force Lightning strikes Al-Qaeda" Multi-National Corps – Iraq, Public Affairs Office, 19 June 2007
  19. ^ eye witness account
  20. ^ Frayer, Lauren (15 March 2007). "Strykers face Diyala barrage". Retrieved 3 November 2008. 
  21. ^ "TASK FORCE 5-20 INFANTRY REGIMENT OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM 06-07". U.S. Army 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. Retrieved 3 November 2008. 
  22. ^ a b Eye witness account
  23. ^ Eye witness account.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "DoD Identifies Army Casualties". U.S. Department of Defense. 6 May 2007. Retrieved 3 November 2008. 
  26. ^ Sends 10,000 Troops Into Diyala to Take on Al Qaeda in Iraq. Fox News, 2007-JUN-19. Retrieved 2007-JUN-27.
  27. ^ "US launches major Iraq offensive". BBC, 2007-JUN-19
  28. ^ "Start of ‘Arrowhead Ripper’ Highlights Iraq Operations" American Forces Press Service 19 June 2007
  29. ^ "Task Force Lightning strikes al-Qaeda". Multi-National Corps – Iraq Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory, APO AE 09342, 2007-JUN-19.
  30. ^ "Photo of the Day: US and Iraqi Troops on the Streets of Baquba". IraqSlogger, 2007-JUN-29. Retrieved 2007-JUN-29.
  31. ^ "Iraq Security Developments - Sunday". IraqSlogger, 2007-JUL-01. Retrieved 2007-JUL-04.
  32. ^ a b "Iraq Security Developments - Monday". IraqSlogger, 2007-JUL-02. Retrieved 2007-JUL-04.
  33. ^ "More death and political intrigue" Nermeen Al-Mufti, Al-Ahram Weekly, 5–11 July 2007
  34. ^ a b Ibid.

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