A u. S. military spokesman accused Iranian leaders Monday of using guerrillas from Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group to train militiamen...
BAGHDAD — A U.S. military spokesman accused Iranian leaders Monday of using guerrillas from Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group to train militiamen fighting American troops in Iraq and to organize attacks, including a January ambush on an Iraqi-U.S. outpost that killed five American soldiers.
The United States repeatedly has accused the Shiite Muslim-led regime in Tehran of aiding Shiite Muslims and even Sunni Arab forces opposed to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, charges Iran has denied.
Monday’s accusations included the added twist of the alleged Hezbollah connection, which Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, the military spokesman, said became clear with the arrest in March of a man identified as a Lebanese-born Hezbollah operative.
Bergner told a news conference that the operative, whom he identified as Ali Musa Daqduq, was carrying a false ID and pretended to be a deaf mute when he was detained March 20 in the southern city of Basra. A few weeks later, Bergner said, interviews as well as computer records and other material confirmed that Daqduq had served Hezbollah for 24 years, including coordinating protection of Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah.
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Daqduq was carrying documents at the time of his capture that described tactics to attack Iraqi and U.S. forces, one of which Bergner displayed Monday. Daqduq also carried a journal, which contained entries that Bergner displayed detailing the operative’s involvement with Iraqi militants who attempted to attack British, Iraqi and U.S. forces in southern Iraq and Diyala province.
In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini derided the accusations as well as Daqduq’s purported account.
“It is another silly and ridiculous scenario brought up by Americans based on a baseless remark of a person,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is a sheer lie, and it is ridiculous.”
Bergner said Daqduq was captured along with two Iraqi brothers, Qayis Khazali and Layith Khazali, and that all three were working with Iran to develop a Hezbollah-like network of cells in Iraq called the Iraqi Special Groups. Iran’s secretive Quds Force, a unit of its Revolutionary Guards, was overseeing the training, which included training at three camps near Tehran, Bergner said.
“Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity,” he said.
The latest claims come at an especially sensitive time for U.S.-Iranian relations, which have failed to thaw despite meetings between officials from the two countries.
U.S. casualties in Iraq have increased dramatically since President Bush announced a military clampdown in February, and a growing number of deaths are being blamed on highly lethal explosives that Washington accuses Iran of providing.
The U.S. military has said that it suspected Iraqi militia fighters did not have the sophistication to carry out the January attack in Karbala, south of Baghdad. Attackers dressed up in U.S. uniforms or a close facsimile and made it past Iraqi checkpoints at a government building. Five Americans were killed.