While US and Iraqi forces focus on combating al Qaeda as it shifts to the northern provinces, Coalition Special Forces teams continue to target the Iranian-backed Special Groups terror cells operating in the central and southern provinces. Since December 4, Special Forces teams have conducted three raids against the Iranian-supported Shia terrorists in and around Baghdad. Each of the targeted individuals in the raids received “received special weapons training.”
The largest raid occurred on December 6 in the Al Hayy region southeast of Baghdad. Coalition forces captured the targeted Special Groups leader along with five associates. Two others were killed and two wounded in a firefight. “The targeted individual reportedly received special weapons training in order to train Special Group criminal element members for insurgent operations,” Multinational Forces Iraq noted in its press release. “His skills consist of improvised explosive device operation, sniper fire, rocket propelled grenades, operational security, mortars and insurgency combat tactics. He is also believed to be an associate of several other senior-level criminal element leaders who were involved in attacks on Coalition forces.”
Coalition Forces conducted a second raid on December 6 in the city of Al Kut in Wasit province. “The operations targeted an individual who reportedly received specialized weapons and tactical training, including sniper rifle and rocket-propelled grenade employment, the construction of improvised explosive devices, and operational security,” Multinational Forces Iraq stated. “He was also suspected of being involved in training Special Group criminal element members on weapons and operational tactics,” as well as involved with other senior leaders.
It is unclear if the targeted Special Groups leader was captured, or if he was a Qods Force operative. “Identification is pending further exploitation, but we are reviewing information recovered on the scene as well as assessing the level of involvement of the detainees,” Multinational Forces Iraq’s Press Desk responded to an inquiry from The Long War Journal.
A third weapons trainer was targeted in the Khan Bani Said region north of Baghdad on December 4. “The targeted individual was reportedly a significant explosively formed penetrator facilitator and trainer within Special Group criminal elements,” a Multinational Forces Iraq press release stated. Two Special Groups fighters were captured, but it is still unclear if the leader was among them.
The capture of these Iranian-backed operatives erodes claims that Iran is dialing back the attacks and operations inside Iraq. In late November, Special Groups operatives bombed a pet market in Baghdad and attempted to make the attack look like an al Qaeda strike.
Several senior US military officers engaged in regions where the Special Groups are active believe the Iranian ratlines are still open. These ratlines are managed by Qods Forces’ Ramazan Corps, the special command assigned to manage operations in Iraq.
While Multinational Forces Iraq has not identified the weapons trainers as Iraqi or Iranian, Qods Force or native Special Groups fighters, the likelihood is they are Qods Force trainers. Senior and junior Qods Force officers need not be Iranians to serve in the unit. Two prominent Qods Force officers — Mussa Ali Daqduq and Imad Fayez Mugniyah — are in fact Lebanese.
Mussa Ali Daqduq is a senior operative who served as the commander of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s bodyguard as well as the commander of Hezbollah’s special operations unit. Daqduq met with senior Qods Force officers inside Iran in 2005. He was tasked by Iran to organize the Special Groups and “rogue” Mahdi Army cells along the lines of Lebanese Hezbollah. Daqduq was captured in the spring of 2007. 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.
Imad Fayez Mugniyah, Hezbollah’s chief of military operations has a long history of successful military and terrorist operations across the globe and cooperation with Iran. Mugniyah began his career in terrorism in the 1970s with Force 17, the personal bodyguard detachment for Yassar Arafat. He later joined Hezbollah. His infamous terror attacks include the April 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, killing 63; the October 1983 simultaneous truck bombings on the US Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines and 58 French soldiers; the hijacking of TWA 847; the kidnappings and murders of US military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel in Beirut throughout the 1980s; the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992, killing 29 people; the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in 1994, killing 86 people. He is suspected of direct involvement in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US servicemen. He was responsible for capturing three Israeli soldiers in Lebanon and the abduction of an Israeli colonel in Kuwait in 2000.
Mugniyah has extensive links with the Iranian intelligence services and has been directly linked to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and recently deceased al Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Mugniyah is on FBI’s list of 22 most wanted terrorists, with a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture. US Special Forces aborted a raid to capture Mugniyah in the Persian Gulf in 1996. He was believed to have visited Syria in January 2006, attending a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Assad.
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