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Targeting the Iranian "Secret Cells"

1:43 AM, Jun 8, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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Qods Force logo, click to view.

Since the end of April, Multinational Forces Iraq has released a multitude of press releases noting the capture or killing of members described as belonging to "a secret cell terrorist network known for its use of explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, as well as facilitating the transport of weapons and EFPs from Iran to Iraq, and bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training." Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed 25 members of this network and captured 68 more since April 27, 2007. These are Shia terrorists who are trained, armed, funded, and directed by Iran's Qods Force, and have connections to Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army.

Multinational Forces Iraq is cryptic yet clear when discussing this network of Iranian backed operatives. General David Petraeus, the commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, first identified the network at a press briefing on April 26. He described it as a "secret cell network" to which the Iranians had "provided substantial funding, training on Iranian soil, advanced explosive munitions and technologies as well as run of the mill arms and ammunition, and, in some cases, even a degree of direction." Since then, 17 press releases have referred to raids against the network. In his briefing on April 26, General Petraeus mentioned both the Sheibani and Qazali networks, specifically.

The overarching network is actually the Sheibani Network, according to one intelligence official. The Qazali network was described as a radical splinter unit of the Mahdi Army operating under the aegis of the Sheibani network.

"There's no question, again, that Iranian financing is taking place through the Qods force of the Iranian Republican Guards Corps," General Petraeus noted, as documentation seized during raids provided evidence of this. Qods Force [or Jerusalem Force] is a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and is responsible for planning and conducting foreign operations, gathering intelligence, and managing the the regime's terrorist affiliates. The unit works extensively with Hezbollah. and Qods Force regularly uses its diplomatic missions to provide cover for its operatives.

The U.S. currently has seven senior members of Iran's Qods Force in custody after raids in Baghdad in December of 2006 and Irbil in January of 2007. The Qazali Network responded by kidnapping and murdering five U.S. soldiers during a complex attack on the Joint Provincial Coordination Center in Karbala on January 20. On May 19, Coalition forces killed Azhar al-Dulaimi during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City.

Handout photo released by the U.S. military shows an 81mm mortar round believed to be from Iran and found in Baghdad in January 2007. Click photo to view.

Azhar al-Dulaimi was described as the "mastermind" and "tactical commander" of the Karbala attack and is known to have been a key player in numerous other high-profile terror attacks in Iraq. He was a major figure in the Iranian-supported Qazali network. "Intelligence reports indicate Dulaimi received military training from Iranian intelligence agents and from Lebanese Hezbollah, to include training on how to conduct terrorist-style kidnapping," according to the Department of Defense.