News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIran groups offering extra aid to Iraq rebels: US

Iran groups offering extra aid to Iraq rebels: US

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ImageAFP: A US general said on Sunday that the increasingly sophisticated attacks carried out by Shiite extremists in Iraq were evidence they were getting extra aid from Iranian groups in the country.

ImageBAGHDAD (AFP) — A US general said on Sunday that the increasingly sophisticated attacks carried out by Shiite extremists in Iraq were evidence they were getting extra aid from Iranian groups in the country.

Major General Rick Lynch, commander of US forces in central Iraq, said rocket and mortar attacks by Shiite extremists were "more effective than before". This he charged indicated a rise in Iranian help to the militants.

"We are seeing an increase in (Iranian) influence … the number of attacks that are directly attributed to Iranian influence have indeed increased," Lynch said.

"The number of EFP (explosively formed penetrator) attacks have increased, the number of Iranian rocket attacks have indeed increased, the amount of Iranian weapons I am finding on the battlefield has increased. The amount of Shiite extremists who tie their training back to Iran have indeed increased."

Lynch, whose area of operation in Iraq has a long stretch of border with Iran, also charged that his troops have found large numbers of caches of weapons and ammunition bearing Iranian markings.

Citing a recent example, the general said his troops found in one place "enough components for 1,100 EFPs directly traceable back to Iran."

Iran denies supplying ammunition to insurgents, or training them.

Lynch said previous rocket attacks were "ineffective… now there is a difference. Now they have sophisticated launch systems."

The US military says that around 600 rockets or mortar rounds were fired by Shiite extremists at Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone between March 23 and April 12. Many of them had Iranian markings on them, it says.

Lynch, who commands US forces in the Shiite provinces of Babil, Karbala, Najaf and Wasit, said that in recent weeks his troops had detained 25 extremists who, he said, had been trained in Iran or by Iranian-linked groups in Iraq.

During interrogation "they say we were trained in Iran or we were trained by Iranians in Iraq or we were trained by Iraqi surrogates who had been trained in Iran who have come back and trained us," the general told reporters.

"So it just continues to highlight what we are experiencing which is particularly troublesome Iranian influence in our area that's resulted in casualties of the Iraqi people, the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces."

Lynch said there was a "marked" Iranian influence, adding that several of the 146 US troops from his command who had been killed succumbed to "Iranian munition".

"You know I have lost 146 soldiers mainly those who were killed by Iranian munitions, either by Iranian rockets or by Iranian explosively formed penetrators, all of which are directly traceable to Iran," he said.

Lynch and his troops were deployed south of Baghdad in April 2007 as part of the "surge" to curb the raging bloodshed across Iraq.

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