The Treasury Department added a Hezbollah leader who was in the US military’s custody until late last year to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Mussa Ali Daqduq, the Hezbollah leader who was responsible for molding the Iranian-backed Shia terror groups into potent fighting forces and who also was involved in the murder of US soldiers, was released to Iraqi custody in December 2011 and freed late last week.
Treasury added Daqduq to the list of global terrorists today. The Iraqi government freed Daqduq on Thursday, saying it had no reason to keep in custody. An Iraqi court had dismissed terrorism charges against him in May. After his release, Daqduq promptly flew to Hezbollah’s home base in Lebanon, according to his lawyer [see LWJ, report, Iraq frees Hezbollah commander who helped mold Shia terror groups].
When the US transferred Daqduq to Iraqi custody last December, White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that Iraqi officials assured the US they would prosecute Daqduq. The Obama administration refused to transfer Daqduq to Guantanamo Bay for a military trial, while members of Congress said they would block administration attempts to transfer Daqduq to the US for a trial in federal court.
Daqduq’s designation is both tragic and ironic as he was in US custody a mere 11 months ago. Before his release it was well known that he has been involved with Hezbollah since 1983. He served as the head of Hezbollah’s special forces, as well as the commander of Hezbollah emir Hassan Nasrallah’s bodyguard, before being assigned to help kill US troops in Iraq.
According to Treasury: “In approximately 2005, Iran asked Hezbollah to form a group to train Iraqis to fight Coalition Forces in Iraq. In response, Hassan Nasrallah established a covert Hezbollah unit to train and advise Iraqi militants in Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) [or Mahdi Army] and JAM Special Groups, now known as Asaib Ahl al Haq [League of the Righteous],” a Mahdi Army faction.
“As of 2006, Daqduq had been ordered by Hezbollah to work with IRGC-QF [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force] to provide training and equipment to JAM Special Groups to augment their ability to inflict damage against US troops,” Treasury stated.
Daqduq has been linked to one of the most high-profile attacks in Iraq in 2007, in which five US troops at the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center were captured and subsequently executed.
Background on Musa Ali Daqduq
Daqduq is perhaps the most dangerous of the Shia terror commanders captured by US forces in Iraq since 2003. He has a pedigree with Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy militia and terror group that is based in Lebanon. At the time of his capture in March 2007, he was a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah. He has commanded both a Hezbollah special operations unit and the security detail of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
In 2005, Hezbollah’s leadership sent Daqduq to Iran to partner with Qods Force, Iran’s elite special operations group tasked with spreading the Iranian theocracy to neighboring countries, on the training of Iraqi Shia terror groups, the US military said in a briefing in July 2007 after Daqduq’s capture. The US seized documents that outlined Daqduq’s role in supporting the Shia terror groups, collectively called the Special Groups by the US military. The Special Groups include the Mahdi Army, the League of the Righteous (Asaib al Haq, a Mahdi Army faction), and the Hezbollah Brigades.
In May 2006, Daqduq traveled with Yussef Hashim, the chief of Lebanese Hezbollah’s operations in Iraq, to Tehran to meet with the commander and the deputy commander of the Iranian Qods Force Special External Operations branch. Daqduq also made four trips to Iraq in 2006, where he personally observed Special Groups operations.
Upon his return to Iran, Daqduq was tasked to organize the Special Groups “in ways that mirrored how Hezbollah was organized in Lebanon,” Brigadier General Keven Bergner said in the July 2007 briefing. Daqduq began to train Iraqis inside Iran to carry out terror attacks in their home country. 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 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.”
Daqduq and the Qazali brothers
Daqduq was captured in the Iraqi city of Basrah in March 2007 along with two brothers, Qais and Laith Qazali. Qais was the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous, which is considered the most dangerous of the Shia terror groups, while Laith was a commander in the group. Qais was responsible for the January 2007 attack on the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center. Five US soldiers were captured during the operation and were executed by Qazali’s men as Iraqi police and troops closed in on the snatch team.
Despite the roles played by Qais and his brother Laith in killing US troops and working with Iran’s Qods Force, the US military released the two brothers and hundreds of their followers to the Iraqi government between July and December of 2009. The Shia terrorists were freed in exchange for a British hostage and the bodies of four other Brits who had been executed by the League of the Righteous while in custody.
The US military officially denied that the release of Qais and Laith was part of a hostage exchange, and instead insisted it was part of “reconciliation.” But US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal privately said that the brothers and hundreds of their fighters had indeed been freed as part of a hostage exchange.
The League of the Righteous returned to terror activities shortly after the hostage exchange. In January of 2010, less than a month after Qais was finally freed, the terror group kidnapped Issa T. Salomi, a US civilian contractor, in Baghdad. In September 2012, Qais threatened to attack US interests in Iraq over a video that has angered Islamists and sparked protests in several Muslim nations.
Daqduq was part of the same Iranian-sponsored terror network that plotted to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US in 2011. In October 2011, the US Treasury Department designated five participants in the plot. One of them is Abdul Reza Shahlai, an IRGC-QF officer who planned the Jan. 20, 2007 attack in Karbala, Iraq. Shahlai oversaw the Qazali brothers’ activities in Iraq.
For more information on Iran’s support of the Shia terror groups in Iraq, see LWJ report, Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq, from 2009.