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Friday, August 17, 2007

U.S. captures 'high-priority' Iran officer in Baghdad

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has reported the capture of a senior officer of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps stationed in Baghdad.

U.S. forces, which are taking aim at key Iranian officers based in Iraq, conducted a raid that nabbed the officer of the IRGC's Quds Force and killed three of his aides.

"Coalition troops continue to target terrorists who bring weapons and explosives, especially explosively formed penetrators, and other aid into Iraq," U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said. "Coalition forces will continue their focused operations against unhelpful Iranian influence interfering in Iraq."

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A military statement said nine gunmen were killed in a series of raids in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. The statement said the detained IRGC officer facilitated the flow of weapons from Iran to Iraq and their distribution to Shi'ite and other militias.

Officials said IRGC has become a major U.S. target, particularly in the Baghdad area.

"The captured high-priority individual was responsible for smuggling explosively formed penetrators, Katyusha rockets and other weapons from Iran into Iraq," an official said. "The target was also responsible for distributing those weapons to special groups and extremist militants operating throughout Baghdad. The weapons smuggler had direct ties to senior militant leaders and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force."

Officials said five others were arrested during the raid. They said Iranian officers were transferring weapons and finances to a range of militias in an effort to force a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said insurgents have received Iranian 240 mm rockets for attacks against the U.S.-led coalition. Bergner said U.S. forces recovered some of the 240 mm rockets in the Ninveh province on Aug. 14.

"The 240 mm rocket is a large-caliber projectile that has been provided to militia extremists groups in the past along with a range of other weapons from Iranian sources," Bergner said.

The Bush administration plans to designate IRGC a terrorist group. The Quds Force was said to be responsible for liasion with and assistance to a range of Middle East insurgency groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah.

The army also reported the killing of six Al Qaida insurgents and the detention of another 26 fighters in operations east of Balad. U.S. and Iraqi combat units also found a cache of weapons and bombs in an Al Qaida stronghold.

"Terrorists cannot conceal themselves in small villages, disrupting the lives of Iraqi citizens," Garver said. "There was no safe havens for terrorists here, as operations will continue to seek them wherever they hide."

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