March 31, This day during the Iraq War

March 31, 2008 – The Battle of Basra began on March 25, 2008, when the Iraqi Army launched an operation (code-named Saulat al-Fursan, meaning Operation Charge of the Knights in Arabic) to drive the Mahdi Army militia out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The operation was the first major operation to be planned and carried out by the Iraqi Army since the invasion of 2003. Coalition and Iraqi aircraft patrolled the skies above Basra providing intelligence and carrying out air strikes in support of Iraqi forces on the ground. Coalition forces provided embedded military transition teams (MiTTs) in Iraqi Army units and American special forces also conducted joint operations with ISOF units. Iraqi forces faced heavy resistance from Mahdi Army militia inside the city and the offensive stalled, requiring American and British air and artillery support, eventually resulting in a stand-off. More than 1,000 casualties resulted in six days of heavy fighting. Following a ceasefire negotiated in Iran on March 31, Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew his fighters from the streets, but had gained a major political victory. However, the Iraqi Army, reinforced with brigades from other parts of Iraq, including the 1st Division from al-Anbar, continued to carry out slower, more deliberate clearing operations in militia strongholds. The Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics Unit, as well as Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), carried out a number of targeted raids on militia leaders. By April 20, the Iraqi army had taken control of the last major district controlled by the Mahdi Army and by April 24, Iraqi forces claimed to be in full control of the city centre.

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