As Coalition and Iraqi forces maintain the pressure on al Qaeda’s network throughout Iraq, the Shia terror organizations are also being hit hard. Over the past several days, Iraqi and Coalition forces have conducted numerous raids against the Iranian-backed Shia terror groups known as the Special Groups. On September 5, Coalition forces announced the capture of “a highly-sought individual suspected of being an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) affiliate” during a raid in Karbala.
The Special Groups agent, who has not been identified, is “suspected of coordinating with high-level IRGC-QF officers for the transportation of multiple Iraqis to Iran for terrorist training at IRGC-QF training camps.” The suspect also serves as a logistical operative and “is closely linked to individuals at the highest levels of the IRGC-QF. Coalition forces are still assessing his possible connection to the Special Groups.” Documents, photographs, communications equipment, and computers were found during the raid on his home.
Information obtained from this latest raid likely will shed more light on the leadership and organization of the Special Groups, the identity of their Iranian Qods Force handlers, and their current plans in Iraq. In the past, the capture of senior Special Groups operatives has led to a wealth of information on the Iranian network. The most significant operation 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.
Recently, Muqtada al Sadr admitted in an interview with The Independent that his Mahdi Army trained and received guidance from Hezbollah. Sadr’s aide later denied the interview took place. Lebanese Hezbollah is essentially the foreign wing of Iran’s Qods Force.
With the onset of Operation Phantom Strike, the Shia terror networks have been targeted with equal frequency as al Qaeda’s cells. Twenty-nine additional Shia extremists have been captured since September 1. Iraqi Special Forces and regular army units are often leading the raids against the Iranian-backed Shia terror cells.
September 4: Two weapons smugglers were captured in the village of Qazaniyah, near the Iranian border northeast of Baqubah in Diyala province. “The detained individuals are suspected of having regular and recent contact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps – Qods Force,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported. “The suspects are believed to have smuggled and distributed Iranian weapons, including deadly explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). Intelligence reports indicate the weapons facilitators have traveled to and from Iran recently.”
September 3: Iraqi troops captured a member of a Shia death squad in the Bub al Sha’am and Al Shaab areas in New Baghdad. The captive “responsible for kidnapping and torturing innocent civilians, as well as conducting extra judicial killings,” as well as ambushing US and Iraqi forces with small arms and roadside bombs.
September 2: Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition troops conducted several raids in central and southern Iraq. A Shia militia leader in Hillah who “recruited a sniper with training in Iran to target Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army Soldiers” was captured along with an explosively formed projectile cell leader and cell member. Seven weapons facilitators “responsible for distributing deadly explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) and other weapons flowing from Iran into Iraq” were captured in Qasarin.
September 1: US and Iraqi soldiers captured 16 Shia terrorists during an assault on an apartment complex in Mahmudiyah in Babil province. The terrorists are suspected of attacking Iraqi and US troops, and most recently killed an Iraqi Army company commander.
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 Gen. David Petraeus’ briefing on the Qazali and Sheibani networks on April 26.