News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIranian-backed group holds Britain’s Iraq hostages in proxy war

Iranian-backed group holds Britain’s Iraq hostages in proxy war

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Sunday Times: A British computer expert and his four British bodyguards, who were kidnapped from the finance ministry in Baghdad more than three months ago, are being held by the Iranian commander of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards as part of a proxy war being waged by Iran, according to Iraqi intelligence. The Sunday Times

Marie Colvin in Baghdad

A BRITISH computer expert and his four British bodyguards, who were kidnapped from the finance ministry in Baghdad more than three months ago, are being held by the Iranian commander of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards as part of a proxy war being waged by Iran, according to Iraqi intelligence.

The men are believed to have been kidnapped by a cell belonging to the Mahdi Army, a Shi’ite militia controlled by Moqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand cleric and fierce opponent of the coalition forces in Iraq.

Senior Iraqi sources said the kidnappers were a unit that worked separately from Mahdi Army cells and were under Iranian command.

The kidnappers answer directly to Qassem Suleimani, a powerful Iranian general who commands the Qods force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ overseas branch.

Suleimani is a hardline general who rose through the ranks of the guards until he took over the Qods force five years ago, Iraqi sources said. He answers directly to Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has hundreds of millions of dollars to spend and has lavished them on radical Shi’ite fighters in Iraq.

In his assessment of America’s troops surge, General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq, told a congressional hearing last week that Iran was using the Qods force to fight a “proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq”.

Many of the fighters attacking the British in the south and American forces in the Shi’ite areas they patrol have been trained in camps in southern Iran and infiltrated back across the border, according to US and Iraqi agents.

By far the most feared weapon in the Shi’ite arsenal is the explosively formed projectile (EFP). Launched from the side of the road, it is far more deadly than the homemade improvised explosive devices (IEDs) favoured by Sunni militias and often buried like landmines or placed in tunnels under roads.

Troops travel in fear of an EFP, driving at 3mph to try to spot them on the side of the road. There is almost no protection from EFPs. They were rarely seen before this year but have now caused hundreds of casualties. They can easily pierce the armour of the Humvees that are the workhorses of the American army. One has even pierced the armour of a British tank.

“They are copper, superheated and travelling at an immense speed,” said Major Brent Summers, at the US army’s Forward Operating Base. “They cut through steel like butter.”

The best military intelligence that the devices come from Iran is found in the field. “There’s just no doubt that Iran is supplying these EFPs [to the Mahdi Army”>,” said Captain Chad Rambo, based at the Forward Operating Base Kalsu in Babil province, where soldiers are attacked by both Sunnis and Shi’ites in different areas. “The Sunni IEDs are just that – improvised. They use old Saddam Hussein-era munitions or fertiliser.

“In Shi’ite areas we are attacked by military-grade munitions. From the attacks we’ve had here, it’s clear that on the Shi’ite side there is a constant weapons pipeline.

“There’s no interruption or deviation of type. They follow, lot after lot. The technology requires machines not available to the Mahdi Army.”

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