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U.S. Alleges Iran Using Hizballah As 'Proxy' In Iraq

July 2, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. military is accusing Iran of using the Lebanese militia Hizballah as a "proxy" to arm Shi'ite militants in Iraq.

A top U.S. military official told a press conference in Baghdad today that the information comes from a senior Hizballah operative captured in southern Iraq in March.

Brigadier General Kevin Bergner said the senior Hizballah operative, Ali Musa Dakduk, was captured on March 20.

He said Dakduk served for 24 years in Hizballah and was working in Iraq as a "surrogate" Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Qods Force.

He also said the Qods Force and Hizballah were cooperating to bring Iraqis to Iran for special combat training.

"Qods Force, along with Hizballah instructors, train approximately 20 to 60 Iraqis at a time, sending them back to Iraq, organized into these special groups," Bergner said. "They were being taught how to use EFPs [explosively formed penetrators], mortars, rockets, as well as intelligence, sniper, and kidnapping operations."

Bergner said Dakduk was a contact point between the Qods Force and a breakaway militant Shi'ite group. He said that group had been led by Qays al-Khaz'ali, a former spokesman for radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Khaz'ali and his brother were captured at the same time as Dakduk, according to Bergner.

The U.S. military officer said that al-Khaz'ali's group carried out an attack on a provincial government compound in Karbala in January that killed five U.S. soldiers.

Bergner said that the attackers "could not have conducted this complex operation without the support and direction of the Qods Force."

In the assault on the compound, gunmen posed as a U.S. security team to get past guards.

Hizballah officials have made no comment on the charges.

The United States has long accused Iran of helping fund, train, and arm Shi'ite militant groups in Iraq that are both fighting coalition forces and waging a sectarian battle with armed Sunni groups.

Iran's government has always denied any links to attacks on coalition soldiers in Iraq.

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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