Iraqi forces detain 180 "suspects" during Basrah raids
Iraqi security forces conducted a massive sweep throughout Basrah province Tuesday. Iraqi Army and police units detained 180 "suspects," including a Pakistani national, and found several large weapons caches, during the operations.
Forty-four suspected insurgents were detained, including a Pakistani man, while entering Iraq "illegally through Safwan border road, 60 km west [of] Basrah," the Basrah media office told Voices of Iraq. Operations outside of Basrah netted additional 136 isuspects.
The Pakistani man was likely an al Qaeda operative. Safwan is in southeastern Basrah, right on the border with Kuwait. While most al Qaeda operatives pass through Syria or Iran, the transit through Kuwait, while uncommon, does occur.
Al Qaeda has an active support network in Kuwait. Some of the senior most al Qaeda leaders, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks; Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, an al Qaeda spokesman; Omar Farouq, a senior al Qaeda operative; Ramzi Yousef, a planner behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The affiliation of the rest of the captured men was not given, but are likely members of the Mahdi Army. The Iraqi military is often circumspect about the detention of Mahdi Army fighters.
The Mahdi Army has been active in Basrah until Iraqi forces launched an operation in March to clear the city and wider province from the Iranian-backed militia. More than 3,000 Mahdi Army leaders and operatives are said to have fled to Iran to regroup, and are believed to be infiltrating back into Iraq.
Targeting Qods Force inside Iraq
Prior to today's sweep in Basrah, Iraqi security forces captured an "Iranian infiltrator" in province's Shatt al Arab region, Voices of Iraq reported. While not stated, the Iranian is a member of the Ramazan Corps, the command created by Qods Force, the elite special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Qods Force has established the Ramazan Corps to direct operations inside Iraq, and has been working to undermine Iraq's security and political environment.
Iraqi forces have now captured nine Iranian agents and killed one since Oct. 18. One Iranian was killed and another was captured during a clash with Iraqi forces in Al Kut in Wasit province on Oct. 24. Iraqi police captured three armed Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officers in Al Kut on Oct. 20. Border guards captured four more Iranian agents in Mandali in Diyala province.
Prior to this week, only a handful of Iranian operatives, along with a Lebanese Hezbollah leader, have been reported captured inside Iraq. The US military believes Iran is ramping up operations inside Iraq after losing ground during the Iraqi offensive during the spring and summer of 2008.