Captured Hezbollah agent helped plan deadly Karbala
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Officials: Captured Hezbollah agent helped plan
deadly Karbala raid
From Michael Ware
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A top special operations
officer from Lebanon's Iranian-backed militia
Hezbollah has been captured in Iraq, where U.S.
officials say he played a key role in a January
attack that killed five Americans.
Ali Mussa Daqduq, an explosives expert, was captured
in March in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where
he was helping train and lead Shiite militias
fighting coalition troops, U.S. intelligence
officials told CNN.
Daqduq pretended to be deaf and mute when captured,
and his identity was not known for weeks, the
Once uncovered, however, they said he began to talk,
and they now believe he played a crucial role in the
January 20 attack in Karbala.
Hezbollah fought Israeli troops in a month-long war
in southern Lebanon in 2006, a conflict sparked by a
cross-border raid in which Hezbollah fighters killed
three Israeli soldiers and took two others captive.
The conflict ended with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire,
and the Israeli soldiers remained captive when the
Intelligence officials say Daqduq is one of
Hezbollah's top special operations commanders, an
expert in the use of roadside bombs. The Americans
say he, along with the Iraqi militia commanders he
worked with, has admitted working with Iran's elite
Quds Force special operations unit.
U.S. commanders have said for months that Iraqi
militants have been receiving weapons and training
from members of the Quds Force, an element of Iran's
Revolutionary Guards. Washington has demanded the
Iranian government stop the flow of arms and
militants across its border -- which, along with the
diplomatic standoff over Iran's nuclear fuel program,
has raised fears of a wider war in the region.
Iran, which has close ties to the Shiite parties that
control Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's
government, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
But U.S. intelligence officials said the Quds Force
has been backing the creation of Shiite "special
groups" modeled on Hezbollah, which holds sway over
much of southern Lebanon.
The U.S. military declined official comment on
Daqduq's arrest, as did the Iraqi government. But
documents and forensic evidence, seen by members of
the Iraqi government and shown to CNN, support the
Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Daqduq was
captured in a raid aimed at seizing another Shiite
militant leader suspected of involvement in the
January 20 attack in Karbala.
U.S. sources and Iraqi militia sources have said the
carefully planned operation was meant to take
captives who could be traded for five Iranians held
by U.S. troops since a January 10 raid in Irbil, in
northern Iraq. But the Karbala attack went awry,
resulting in the deaths of the five Americans.
Qais Khazali, a onetime spokesman for anti-American
cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army, was one of the
men sought by American troops in connection with the
attack. By the time of his March arrest, he had left
the Mahdi Army and was leading one of the "special
groups," according to U.S. intelligence.
In searching for Khazali, U.S. and allied troops
found computer documents detailing the planning,
training and conduct of the failed kidnapping. And
they found Daqduq, whom intelligence officials said
has admitted working on behalf of Iran.
Contacted by CNN, a Hezbollah spokesman in Lebanon
said he would not dignify the U.S. allegations with a
response. And it remains unclear why Hezbollah's
leadership would risk sending advisers to Iraq:
American intelligence officers suspect Hezbollah --
which is indebted to Iran for decades of military and
financial support -- had no choice.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Mahdi Army deny
receiving any military aid, though they say they
share some of Hezbollah's ideals.
"I say clearly that we do not accept any logistic,
financial, or any other kind of support from anyone
outside the borders of Iraq," said Rassim al-Marwani,
Sadr's cultural adviser.
Thomas Evans contributed to this report.