Commander concerned about Iranian-backed 'special groups'
ARLINGTON, Va. — A U.S. commander in Baghdad said he has seen no signs that Iranian-backed Shiite extremists are curtailing their attacks against coalition forces.
Known as “special groups,” the Shiite extremists receive “funding, support and training” from Iran and operate out of Sadr City, said Army Col. Don Farris, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
“While the violence is down, I remain very concerned in our sector about these special groups,” Farris said. “They’re very lethal. They’re organized. They’re sophisticated, and I have not seen that their operations have declined or diminished in any way shape or form here in the last several months.”
Many members of the “special groups” are former members of the Mahdi Army, which is nominally controlled by the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Farris told reporters on Monday.
Farris also said these Shiite extremists use Iranian munitions, noting that a base in his sector was recently attacked by rockets with explosives “consistent with Iranian-made C-4,” and he has received intelligence reports of the continued flow of Iranian weapons into Sadr City.
The U.S. government has accused the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of providing a particularly deadly type of roadside bomb known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, to enemy forces in Iraq, but so far U.S. officials have not produced evidence linking the Iranian government with such activities.
Farris said the number of EFPs that his troops have encountered rose from seven in May to nine in October, but his troops have only encountered about three such roadside bombs so far this month.
He said the drop in EFPs was not due to decline in efforts by Shiite extremists, rather it is due in part to coalition troops erecting barriers on the west side of Sadr City, which has limited the enemy’s ability to place roadside bombs.
Iran has reportedly promised the Iraqi government that it will stem the flow of weapons into Iraq, but Farris said Monday that he still sees evidence of Iranian activities in his sector.
“In the last six weeks, we have captured two Iranian operatives, we’ve captured two Iraqis: One was significant because he admitted to receiving training in Iran in building and employing these explosive formed projectiles, and another was — admitted working as an agent for somebody or some group in Iran,” Farris said.