Captured Iranian agent identified, 15 Special Groups operatives captured in Iraq


Multinational Forces Iraq and the Iraqi military continue to attack the Iranian-backed Special Groups while interdicting weapons flowing from the neighboring country. Fifteen members of the Special Groups were captured in Baghdad on Sunday. The US military has disclosed the identity of the Qods Force officer captured in the northern Kurdish province of Sulimaniyah on September 20, and has stated Iran is sending portable surface-to-air missiles to Shia insurgents.

During a Sunday press briefing in Baghdad, Rear Admiral Mark Fox identified Mahmudi Farhadi as the Iranian Qods Force officer captured in Sulimaniyah. Farhadi is the sixth Qods Force officer that the US has announced is in custody. Five senior Qods Force officers were captured in Irbil in January 2007.

Iran closed the northern border immediately after Farhadi was captured, claiming he was a businessman. "I find it hard to believe that they would close the border for a businessman," Fox said.

Fox also stated Iran has supplied the Special Groups with Misagh-1 man-portable surface-to-air missiles. The Special Groups is a terrorist organization trained, funded, and supplied by Iran and is set up on the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah by the Qods Force.

"We've said that we've found these things [the Misagh 1 missiles], we've seen them employed," Fox said. The Misagh-1 design is based on the Chinese made QW-1, which "caught the attention of foreign media and research institutions when it was first introduced to the public [at an air show in 1994] because it was claimed to surpass the US Stinger in maximum effective range, target seeker tracking capability, warhead power and other indicators," according to Global Security.

It is unclear if the Misagh-1s have been successful in downing US or allied aircraft. The investigation into the downing of a British Lynx helicopter in Basra in May 2006 found that a "lucky shot" with an RPG was the cause of the crash.

Admiral Fox's briefing was preceded by news of the capture of 15 Special Groups operatives during a raid Sunday morning. "Sensitive intelligence led Coalition forces to an area known to be frequented by a suspected senior Special Groups network commander with ties to several other suspected criminals." Multinational Forces Iraq reported in a press release. "Intelligence also indicates that he is involved in weapons smuggling throughout Iraq." Sensitive intelligence usually indicates a signals intercept.

On September 27, Coalition and Iraqi Special Forces conducted two raids against the Special Groups and the rogue Mahdi Army. One Special Groups operative was killed and two captured after "credible intelligence led Coalition forces to an individual suspected of weapons facilitation throughout central Iraq," Multinational Forces Iraq stated. "The suspect is believed to have direct communication with senior Special Groups members as well as ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Corps - Qods Force."

Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured an "extremist brigade commander" in New Baghdad. Multinational Forces Iraq has not responded to inquiries on the brigade commander's affiliation, but his rap sheet -- including criminal activity, sectarian cleansing, links to the Kufa mosque in Najaf, and attacks on US forces -- indicates he is a member of the rogue Mahdi Army, which also receives support from Iran.

The targeted extremist leads ten brigades of suspected terrorist cells to conduct kidnapping, extrajudicial killings and displacements of Sunni citizens. He commands his cells to attack Iraqi and Coalition Forces with improvised explosive devices and mortars.

As the sector commander for the Al Jadidah in Baghdad, Al Rustamiyah and Al Amin Al Thania, he allegedly uses his criminal connections to command the Al Koufa mosque in Najaf.

Since January, he and his group members are suspected of having executed more than 90 Sunnis, and since October 2006, evicted more than 135 Sunni families from their homes. It is believed they then used the residences of the evicted families as torture sites and weapon-cache safe houses.

One of his companies was linked to the March 2007 kidnapping and murder of the Imam from the Mam of Hay Al-Amin mosque.

In April, his group was suspected of kidnapping a local citizen and stealing the man's vehicle. The group collected a $10,000 ransom before killing the victim and keeping the vehicle. Additionally, he and his group are suspected of launching four mortars into the Sunni populated are of Al-Dora resulting in several civilians deaths.

Further, his group allegedly emplaced several IEDs and detonated them against U.S. military convoys causing damage to several tactical vehicles.

Background on the targeting of the Special Groups

Coalition forces began targeting the Iranian networks and captured senior members of Iran's Qods Force in Baghdad in December 2006 and Irbil in January 2007. Iranian surrogates -- the Qazali and Sheibani networks, which are now collectively referred to as the Special Groups -- stepped up their attacks on Iraqi and Coalition forces in January 2007.

The Qazali network conducted sophisticated operations against US forces at the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center, kidnapping and killing five US soldiers during the aborted operation. Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces have been heavily targeting these "Special Groups" and "Secret Cells" since General David Petraeus' briefing on the Qazali and Sheibani networks on April 26.

In March 2007, Coalition forces captured Qais Qazali, his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members of the Qazali network. Qazali was a spokesperson and senior aide to Muqtada al Sadr. The Qazali network was behind the Karbala Provincial Joint Command Center attack, which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers. Multinational Forces Iraq has stated Iran is behind the Karbala raid, and satellite imagery discovered a mock-up of the Karbala complex at a camp inside Iran.

In July, US forces captured Azhar al Dulaimi, the tactical commander behind the Karbala PJCC attack. In early September 2007, Multinational Forces Iraq announced the captured of "a highly-sought individual suspected of being an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force" operative in Karbala.

The most significant capture occurred in the spring of 2007, when the US captured Ali Mussa Daqduq. Daqduq is a senior Hezbollah operative who was tasked by Iran to organize the Special Groups and "rogue" Mahdi Army cells along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Documents seized during Daqduq's capture, along with statements made during interrogations and information given by other captured Special Groups operatives confirmed Iran's significant role in the Shia terrorist insurgency.


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READER COMMENTS: "Captured Iranian agent identified, 15 Special Groups operatives captured in Iraq"

Posted by Turner Bond at October 1, 2007 7:24 AM ET:

Sounds like progress. Given the eminent arrival of "stinger-like" surface to air missles, it sounds like prgress just in time.

These types of circumstances always present the terrorists with an uncomfortable dilemma: If their networks have too strong a connection wth the command structure above, it becomes too easy to roll them up once you catch a few. On the other hand, if they don't know much about the surrounding command structure, it becomes very hard to bring new leaders on line in a quick enough fashion, since they're being recruited by people they don't know to do a job they haven't fully seen before. It's one of the severe limitation of an insurgent force. Since they don't openly hold territory they can't surround themselves with a security bubble that allows them to openly and effectively administer offensive operations.

In these types of battles, I guess speed is the defining battlefield dimension and this is probably one reason the surge has been so effective. Because they're slow in rebuilding leadership, and new leadership is clumsy in adopting the mission at first, they can be kept off balance by an agile defending/liberating force.

The question, as we see these groups rolled up, is how fast is fast enough to keep them off guard? Since recent attacks on the leadership seem to be peeling away the outer shell to reveal the inner source and core, something they don't want, it would appear we're tearing pieces off of them faster than they can grow them back. I certainly hope that's true. Whatever the case, they've certainly had to divert their efforts toward saving their skin rather than killin innocent people of late and that's very encouraging.

Posted by David M at October 1, 2007 11:10 AM ET:

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Posted by TS Alfabet at October 1, 2007 11:24 AM ET:

Ditto on the encouraging news; good comment Turner; great post, Bill.

Does anyone else see the supply of anti-air equipment as a significant line crossed by Iran?

It certainly is an indication of U.S. effectiveness in air strikes, but more importantly, if these missiles are used with any kind of success, I have to think that the U.S. will ratchet up the pressure on Iran in some fashion... Perhaps a covert op against Iran's refineries?

Posted by Dennis Skayhan at October 1, 2007 2:41 PM ET:

Surface to air missiles sounds like Iran is trying to do to us what we did to the Soviets in Afganistan. I can't imagine we will limit our efforts to the Iraq side of the border for much longer.