Group: Iranians Were Part of Elite Force
Thursday, December 28, 2006; 4:50 PM
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Two Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq were senior members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and had coordinated attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi civilians, the head of an Iranian opposition group said Thursday.
The White House said earlier this week that U.S. troops had caught a group of Iranians in a raid on suspected insurgents in Iraq. Two of the men had diplomatic immunity and were released them to Iran, but the other two were kept in custody.
Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NICR), an anti-regime umbrella group based in Paris, said the two men being held were senior members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Qods force and were responsible for sectarian attacks in Iraq.
She cited the group's intelligence officials as the source of the information.
It was not possible to independently verify Rajavi's claim, but the group has provided relatively accurate information on developments in Iran over the past several years, including details on the country's secretive nuclear program.
In Washington, a Pentagon official said Thursday that U.S. forces had found "indications and evidence that all of the people rounded up, including the two Iranians, are involved in the transfer of IED technologies from Iran to Iraq." IED stands for improvised explosive devices, or small bombs that are commonly used in attacks in Iraq.
The U.S. military has confirmed that troops found documents, but it was not clear if any actual explosives were found.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been made public, said that U.S. forces are currently working out ways to turn over the Iranians to the Iraqis, but that has not been resolved as yet.
In Baghdad, a spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Monday that the two detained Iranians were in the country at his invitation.
But U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell confirmed Thursday that the detained men were part of a group of 10 suspects taken into custody after the raid on Dec. 21. They were being interrogated by U.S. intelligence, he said.
U.S. officials have charged that Iran provides training and other aid to Shiite militias in Iraq, including equipment used to build roadside bombs. Tehran denies this and says it only has political and religious links with Iraqi Shiites.
Associated Press Writer Lita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.