Petraeus: Iran aided kidnappers
ARLINGTON, Va. — The group that killed five U.S. servicemembers in January in Karbala received Iranian aid, but there is no evidence of direct Iranian involvement in the attack, the overall U.S. commander in Iraq told reporters Thursday.
A group known as the “Khazali network” is believed to be responsible for the January attack, in which gunmen disguised as U.S. troops managed to pass through Iraqi checkpoints to kidnap four of the five U.S. troops, gunning one down on the scene.
Interrogations of group members have revealed that the group received substantial funding, training on Iranian soil and munitions from Iran, said Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force — Iraq.
The group also kept records of attacks on coalition forces, including a 22-page memo on how the Karbala attack was planned and carried out, he said.
“Our sense is that these records were kept so that they could be handed in to whoever it is that is financing them, and there is no question again that Iranian financing is taking place through the Qods Force of the Iranian [Revolutionary] Guards Corps,” he said.
However, Petraeus said he has no evidence linking the Iranians specifically with the Karbala attack.
“We have not seen evidence of direct Iranian involvement in that case … in other words coaching them how to do it, telling them how to do it, or what have you,” he said.
Petraeus also acknowledged that officials’ theory that the Khazali group wanted to give its records on attacks against coalition forces to Iran is speculation.
After the briefing, a senior Defense official said he did not know if the group reported back to Iran on its attacks.
In February, officials told reporters that senior elements in the Iranian government were smuggling weapons into Iraq, but senior Defense officials later backed away from drawing a direct link between the Iranian government and attacks in Iraq.
On Feb. 15, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the Iranian Qods Force is involved in Iraq, but he did not know whether senior Iranian officials knew about it.
“Frankly, for me, either way, it’s a worry,” Gates said. “Either they do know and have approved it, or they don’t know and the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] may be acting on their own in Iraq.”