Wednesday, April 11, 2007

US: Iran Training Iraqi Militia

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

Not that this is exactly 'news', but there's new reason to believe that Iran's revolutionary guard may be training Iraqi fighters in bomb making. Ongoing battles between coalition forces and the Mahdi Army have seen many members of Muqtada Al-Sadr's militia detained and interrogated, revealing new Iranian links:

BAGHDAD - Iranian intelligence operatives have been training Iraqi fighters inside Iran on how to use and assemble deadly roadside bombs known as EFPs, the U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.

Commanders of a splinter group inside the Shiite Mahdi Army militia have told The Associated Press that there are as many as 4,000 members of their organization that were trained in Iran and that they have stockpiles of EFPs, a weapon that causes great uneasiness among U.S. forces here because they penetrate heavily armored vehicles.

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell would not say how many militia fighters had been trained in Iran but said that questioning of fighters captured as recently as this month confirmed many had been in Iranian training camps.

"We know that they are being in fact manufactured and smuggled into this country, and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them. We know that training has gone on as recently as this past month from detainees debriefs," Caldwell said at a weekly briefing.

EFP stands for explosively formed penetrator, deadly roadside bombs that hurl a fist-size lump of molten copper capable of piercing armor.

Update: A good article on what the U.S. faces in fighting the Mahdi Army from the Washington Post.

Update 2: Al-Sadr's political bloc is now threatening to resign from parliament because of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's opposition to setting a timetable for U.S troop withdrawal. Is it just me, or is it an Islamist tactic to threaten to boycott parliament?

Also, here's an interesting article on the diversity of Islamist groups in the region, and how that diversity could lead to Al-Qaeda's decline.

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