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Chinese missiles smuggled through Iran into Iraq: US


AFP: The US military on Sunday said its troops had found Chinese-made missiles which they believe were smuggled into Iraq by groups in Iran in order to arm groups fighting US-led forces. by Ammar Karim

BAGHDAD, July 22, 2007 (AFP) – The US military on Sunday said its troops had found Chinese-made missiles which they believe were smuggled into Iraq by groups in Iran in order to arm groups fighting US-led forces.

“We have seen ordnance and weapons that come from other places, but we assess that they have come through Iran,” US military spokesman Admiral Mark Fox told reporters.

“There are missiles that are actually manufactured in China that we assess come through Iran as well.”

Fox also alleged Iranian agents continue to smuggle Iranian made armour piercing bombs — explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs) — to Iraqi extremist groups across the country’s long border.

“We do feel that there are networks of EFPs that are coming from Iran,” he said, adding the troops had detained two suspects believed to be linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ covert Qods Force.

“We have detained two suspects near the Iran-Iraq border just this weekend that we suspect to be part of the IRGC-Qods Force network,” he said.

The US military has repeatedly accused Iranian linked groups of training Iraqi extremists in the use of EFPs.

Since May 2004, when the EFPs emerged on the Iraqi battlefield, more than 200 US soldiers have been killed by these bombs which fire a fist-sized chunk of molten metal that can cut through even a heavily armoured vehicle.

Tehran denies being behind any weapons smuggling, but Fox insisted that weapons seized by Iraqi and US forces are clearly of Iranian manufacture.

“They are distinctive … in particular mortars, mortar pins, some of the residue that you see from the mortar attacks that are distinctly and uniquely Iranian,” he said.

“Also the technologies associated with some of the improvised-explosive devices, some of the triggering mechanisms and also some of the techniques and also the technology associated with manufacture of EFPs are distinctly and uniquely Iranian.”

The military maintains that many of the extremist groups trained by alleged Iranian agents are Shiite militants who have broken away from the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi militia loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Fox, nevertheless said that the broader organisation — which is a powerful political and religious movement as well as a militia — is not in itself a terrorist outfit.

“As I described earlier there are secret cells, rogue elements of Jaish al-Mahdi that we consider to be extremists, to be terrorists or that are not answerable to any higher authority and are in fact as I said rogue,” Fox said.

“We have not necessarily felt that the entire large organisation of JAM is like that,” he said, using the common US abbreviation for the Mahdi Army.

“We understand that there are factions or splinters or pieces of JAM that are still decent and hardworking and members of society that are not like that.”

Meanwhile, the US general in charge of training Iraqi security forces said on Sunday the military was adopting a step-by-step approach and not working towards a “precise date” for completion of the training.

The Iraqi troops are being trained “one division at a time, one province at a time, one situation at a time,” Lieutenant General James Dubik told AFP.

“There is no blanket answer … they are in much better shape this year than last year. That doesn’t mean we can give a precise date for any transition.”

Dubik, who toured bases in the restive cities of Baquba and Samarra along with Iraqi Defence Minister Abdel Qadir Jassem Mohammed on Sunday, said the Iraqi troops there were “becoming stronger every singe day.”

A White House report earlier this month submitted to the US Congress criticised Iraq for failing to successfully prepare its forces for taking over the security in the country.

A well-armed and trained Iraqi force is seen as the cornerstone for an eventual withdrawal of US-led troops.

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