Sunday, April 15, 2007

Inependent: "Iran trains 'thousands' of Iraqi insurgents"

What? These aren't just claims invented by Neo-con Chickenhawks?
Thousands of Iraqi Shias are being trained in advanced guerrilla warfare tactics at a secret camp near the Iranian capital, according to militants who say they have spent time there.

Through an Iraqi intermediary who also went to Iran, The Independent on Sunday spoke to two seasoned guerrilla fighters. They said large numbers of Mahdi Army volunteers loyal to the maverick Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had gone to the base in Jalil Azad, near Tehran, for instruction.

Abu Amer, a 39-year-old Mahdi Army fighter who asked that his full name not be used, said he had been trained by instructors he believed were from Iran's Revolutionary Guard. "Shia fighters are being trained in modern fighting methods, such as use of powerful explosives and bringing down helicopters," he told the IoS.

Another fighter, who asked to be identified only as Abu Rafed, said he had seen hundreds of fellow Iraqi Shia militants there. "We were taught how to attack the Americans, we learned all the modern ways to shoot down helicopters and destroy tanks and armoured vehicles. It is preparation for the time when we will have a big battle with the occupiers."

Sketchy though these accounts are, they are the first independent confirmation of repeated British and US claims that Iraqi militants are being trained, funded and armed by elements in Iran. The implications for the American-led security "surge" in Baghdad, disrupted by high-profile bombings last week, are extremely serious.

Last week Maj-Gen William Caldwell, the US military spokesman in Iraq, said that questioning of fighters captured as recently as this month confirmed many had been in Iranian training camps.

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