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Top Hizbullah commander captued in Iraq

Friday, June 6, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

BAGHDAD The U.S. military in Iraq has captured the deputy military chief of the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah, coalition officials said.

Iraqi sources said the U.S. Army has arrested the No. 2 figure in Hizbullah's military wing. The sources said the unidentified Hizbullah commander was responsible for training the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army in the Baghdad area.

"The arrest is a major achievement and could provide an intelligence bonanza," an Iraqi source said.

The U.S.-led coalition has reported the capture of a senior Iranian operative south of Baghdad. In a coalition statement, the operative was described as a "primary weapons smuggler and financier for Iranian-backed enemy fighters."

The arrest was said to have taken place on Thursday in Mahawil, south of Baghdad. The coalition statement said the target was a leader of the Iranian-sponsored Special Groups. "Acting on intelligence information, coalition forces conducted a raid on the home of the suspected Special Groups leader in Mahawil, south of Baghdad," the statement said on Thursday. "He surrendered without incident."

The U.S. military also reported the arrest of another senior Iranian operative. The unidentified operative, captured east of Kut, was identified as a Special Groups member and "the primary weapons smuggler and financier for Iranian-backed enemy elements in that area."

"The suspect and an associate surrendered when coalition forces stormed their location," the statement said.

The coalition has corrected claims made by the Iraq Army and security forces of the capture of leading insurgents. In May, the Interior Ministry reported the arrest of Al Qaida network chief Abu Ayyoub Al Masri. Hours later, the ministry retracted the report.

Still, Iraqi and U.S. officials agreed that the Lebanese-based Hizbullah has been a leading tool in the Iranian training and direction of Shi'ite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army and Special Groups. The officials said Hizbullah officers, favored by Teheran over Iranian nationals, conceal their identity even from the Shi'ite groups they train.

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