US Department of Justice plans to prosecute Hezbollah commander captured in Iraq

The US Department of Justice is planning to prosecute Ali Mussa Daqduq, a dangerous Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian Qods Force agent who is responsible for organizing the Shia terror groups in Iraq and the kidnapping and murder of US soldiers.

The proposed prosecution was disclosed in a letter written by five US senators to US Attorney General Eric Holder, asking the Justice Department to clarify the status of Daqduq and inquiring why Daqduq will not be transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The letter, which was signed by US Senators Charles Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn, was sent to the Department of Justice this evening. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Long War Journal [see Threat Matrix report, Text of letter to the Department of Justice on Ali Mussa Daqduq].

“We are deeply concerned that the Administration and the Department of Justice are moving forward with plans to prosecute Ali Mussa Daqduq in federal court for clear violations of the laws of war that occurred in Iraq,” the senators said.

The senators believe that Daqduq should be prosecuted by a military commission and not in a federal court as “his actions clearly defy the laws of war.” The senators are also concerned that Daqduq would eventually be freed if transferred to the Iraqi government.

“Moreover, we are concerned that if Daqduq is left in the custody of the Iraqi government, AAH [the Asaib al Haq or League of the Righteous] will successfully negotiate his release,” the letter continued. “There is little doubt that Daqduq will return to the battlefield and resume his terrorist activities against the United States and our interests.”

Daqduq’s fake documents. Click to view.

Daqduq is perhaps the most dangerous of the Shia terror commanders captured by US forces in Iraq since 2003. Daqduq 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 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s security detail.

In 2005, Hezbollah’s leadership directed Daqduq to travel to Iran and partner with Qods Force, Iran’s elite special operations group tasked with spreading the Iranian theocracy to neighboring countries, to train 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, which are 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 made four trips into 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 was captured in March 2007 along with two brothers, Qais and Laith Qazali. Qais was the leader of 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 official contacted by The Long War Journal privately said that the brothers 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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Tyler says:

    Lets do it. Its a story that demands real media attention that wouldn’t happen if he were tucked away into some military tribunal. Try him in the States and put him away forever.

  • MARK says:

    Ask the parents of the soldiers killed what they want. Is it possible this guy was involved in Lebanon with the bombing of the Marine Barracks?

  • MARK says:

    Ask the parents of the soldiers killed what they want. Is it possible this guy was involved in Lebanon with the bombing of the Marine Barracks?

  • JT says:

    Dawn is reporting that a “NATO” helicopter conducted a strike in North Waziristan.

  • Victor says:

    That pre-supposes that he will be found guilty. What’s your plan if a jury acquits him? Summary battlefield execution for those combatants captured out of uniform is the best way to deal with irregulars. ‘Shot trying to escape’ works too.

  • Russell says:

    Why a trial for a combatant without a uniform? Geneva says shoot him.

  • Tyler says:

    Acquittal fears are horribly overblown. I can’t think of a single major terror suspect who got off clean in federal court. Even Ghailani, who was acquitted of over 100 charges, was still found guilty of enough crimes for him to spend the rest of his life in prison.
    The Gitmo trials have left something to be desired, however, more than a couple convicted suspects receiving sentences far lighter than they’d have likely received in the States. Veteran jihadi globetrotter David Hicks and Bin Laden’s chauffeur amongst those now free men in their native countries.

  • Tourist says:


  • Blackhawk Squadron says:

    It doesn’t matter if he was taken in or out of “uniform,” that point is null on the modern battlefield. If he did indeed capture and murder five US soldiers then the Army aint going to let go of him – nor should they. This is a military matter, he aught to be tried in military court.

  • Erik says:

    For those arguing that Military Commissions (MCs) will achieve a better likelihood of justice than a Federal courtroom are woefully ignorant of their individual trackrecords. Federal courts have meted out infinitely more years of sentencing over the last 3-and-a-half decades than MCs will ever hope to catch up to.
    And nevermind the fact that Federal courts were prosecuting international violent extremists of all flavors long before we were officially ‘at war’ with these criminals and had MCs, and they will be the only institution left when DoD closes up shop due to the economic unsustainability of it’s current construct (a strategic issue).
    Additionally, long-term detention and ultimate resolution of captured personnel is a strategic issue (political) that is ultimately best served by strong international intelligence and law enforcement alliances. Far more transnational extremists have been picked up OFF of the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on and that divide is only going to increase as time does.
    As for Daqduq himself, given the particulars, the last place you want to see him is in front of an MC. With the existing track-record over the last decade or so, there is justifiable concern that his sentencing would be less than adequate. I don’t know about you, but I have a personal interest in seeing that mofo rot in prison for the rest of his natural life and the Federal court system offers the best chance of conviction and long-term detention.

  • SomeGuy says:

    Blackhawk Squadron, the Army already let go of Qais Qazali in 2009 despite outrage from the FA community and now he’s back to his old tricks. As I’ve said before…thanks Dave!
    I have no doubt that they would trade Daqduq for a similar hostage. Hell, Daqduq was one level more removed from the actual killings than Qais.
    As some of you know I am way too close to this to have an objective opinion. But I want a Military Tribunal.

  • Bill Baar says:

    I’m glad the administration is acknowledging Iran’s role in Iraq. Perhapes better to deal with Iran’s meddling and leave this fellow to wait it out for the duration in GITMO.

  • Erik says:

    Why do you blame Petraeus for the return of the Khazali brothers??? It wasn’t DOD, but State (and guess who works for who in our democracy) that sold away all of the guys we had rolled up…it’s called the
    SOFA/SFA; and yes, handing over the K2 twins was deemed acceptable in lieu of what it got us…and that, at the end of the day, is about par for the course for counterinsurgency work. If the Khazali’s are the
    badguys I know them to be than I’m sure ISOF will get a crack at them in the future.
    As for Daqduq, WRT the attack in Karbala, Kevin Bacon’s 6-degrees-of-separation has nothing to do with why he hasn’t been turned over to the Iraqi government; he’s not Iraqi and thus isn’t covered by our SOFA/SFA. You have to go read CA3 or LOAC to understand how to deal with such individuals.


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