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Monday, August 27, 2007      New: Take a Stand

U.S. captures more Iranians, Iran-origin weapons

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has concluded that Sunni insurgents have acquired weapons from Iran.

U.S. commanders said Sunni insurgents, including operatives from Al Qaida, have received Iranian-origin weapons. The commanders said many of these weapons were believed to have been acquired through the black market.

"Now, one way or another, Sunni militants are also getting their hand on this Iranian technology," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division and Multinational Division-Center, said.

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[On Monday, U.S. and Iraqi forces captured eight Iranian operatives in Baghdad's Sadr City. The U.S. military identified the eight as members of the so-called Special Groups, a force trained and equipped by Teheran.]

In an Aug. 24 briefing, Lynch said Iran was pouring rockets, explosively-formed projectiles and other weapons into Iraq. The general said it was unclear whether Sunni insurgents acquired these weapons directly from Iran.

"Whether that's a direct hand-off or black-market activity, we don't know," Lynch said. "But both sides the Sunni extremists and the Shi'a extremists have it and are using that technology to kill Americans and Iraqis, and that's got to stop. And we're using every means available as to monitor and take down these networks."

Lynch said at least 50 Iranian agents were operating in his area of responsibility in central and southern Iraq. He said these operatives, both Iranian and Iraqi nationals, were members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Since April 4, Lynch said, his forces have captured more than 117 Iranian-made munitions. He said that in early August, U.S. and Iraqi troops arrested a Shi'ite liasion between Iran and the Mahdi Army, a leading Shi'ite militia.

"He was the main Shi'a conduit in that region for getting Iranian EFPs and rockets into Baghdad, and his capture was a big blow to that network," Lynch said. "When we found him, we also discovered an insurgent video they were making that showed 46 Iranian rockets lined up to be fired at one of our U.S. forward operating bases."

Officials said U.S. forces have captured Iranian mines in Iraq's Wasit province along the Iranian border. They also cited the seizure of Iranian-made munitions and weapons systems along the 200-kilometer border between Wasit and Iran.

"We are up against a new wave of lethality sponsored by the enemies of the people of Iraq and its government," Lynch said. "We've found and cleared 728 IEDs, to include EFPs, since the surge began [in 2007]."

"But when you take those rockets and you show them to experts in munitions, EODs -- they look at their documents, they focus on the munitions and say, 'Those had to come from Iran,'" Lynch added.

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