Iran, Hezbollah train Iraqi Shia "Secret Cells"
Ali Mussa Daqduq, a Hezbollah operative, captured among others
Iran's involvement in funding, arming, and training the networks of Shia terrorist in Iraq has been an open secret in Iraq for years. The issue came to a head last winter when Coalition forces began heavily targeting the Iranian networks and captured senior members of Iran's Qods Force in Baghdad in December 2006 and Irbil in January 2007. Iran struck back via its surrogates, the Qazali and Sheibani networks later in January 2006, and struck at the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center, kidnapping and killing five U.S. soldiers during the aborted operation. In a briefing from Iraq this afternoon, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, the spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq, provided explicit detail on both Iran and Hezbollah's role behind the Shia terror networks and their involvement in the Karbala attack.
Brig Gen Bergner identified 27 high-level "Secret Cell" or "Special Group" leaders who have been "taken off the streets of Iraq." Three were killed and 18 captured. Among those captured was Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative. Daqduq has a pedigree with Lebanese Hezbollah, an Iranian-created operation, and Iran's Qods Force. Daqduq is a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah, who has commanded both a Hezbollah special operations unit and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's security detail.
"In 2005, he was directed by senior Lebanese Hezbollah leadership to go to Iran and work with the Qods Force to train Iraqi extremists," said Brig Gen Bergner. "In May 2006, he traveled to Tehran with Yussef Hashim, a fellow Lebanese Hezbollah and head of their operations in Iraq. They met with the Commander and Deputy Commander of the Iranian Qods Force Special External Operations." Daqduq made four trips into Iraq in 2006, where he observed the "Special Groups" operations.
Upon his return to Iran, "he was tasked to organize the Special Groups in ways that mirrored how Hezbollah was organized in Lebanon," Brig Gen Bergner explained. Daqduq began to train Iraqis inside Iran. Groups of 20 to 60 recruits were trained in the use of Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), mortars, rockets, and sniper rifles, and instructed on how to conduct intelligence and kidnapping operations.
"These Special Groups are militia extremists, funded, trained and armed by external sources specifically by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force operatives," said Brig Gen Bergner. "In addition to training, the Qods force also supplies the Special Groups with weapons and funding of 750,000 to three million U.S. dollars a month. Without this support, these Special Groups would be hard pressed to conduct their operations in Iraq."
Brig Gen Bergner also explained that numerous documents, including a 22-page planning document, Daqduq's journal, and other items, along with the corroborated interrogations of Qayis and Layith Qazali (or Khazali) and other captured members of the Special Groups networks detail Qods Force's role in the Shia terror cells inside Iraq. "What we've learned from Ali Musa Daqduq, Qayis Qazali and other Special groups members in our custody expands our understanding of how Iranian Qods Force operatives are training, funding and arming the Iraqi Special Groups," said Brig Gen Bergner. "It shows how Iranian operative are using Lebanese surrogates to create Hezbollah like capabilities."
Brig Gen Bergner said three training camps for the "Special Groups" have been identified inside Iran. Last month, U.S. satellite reconnaissance identified a mockup of the Karbala PJCC inside Iran. This facility was used to train the Qazali network for the Karbala attack.
Brig Gen Bergner said senior Iranian leadership was aware of Qods Force's activities inside Iraq. "Our intelligence reveals that the senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity." Brig Gen Bergner further explained it "would be hard to imagine" that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, would not be aware of Qods Force's role in the Iraq violence. Qods Force reports directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have been targeting these "Special Groups" and "Secret Cells" heavily since General David Petraeus's briefing on the Qazali and Shaibani networks on April 26. Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed at least 91 members of the Secret Cell network and captured 113 since April 27, 2007.