UPI: Iranian-backed "special groups" are entering Iraq with greater frequency, threatening to destabilize the region ahead of provincial elections, an analysis says.
United Press International
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Iranian-backed "special groups" are entering Iraq with greater frequency, threatening to destabilize the region ahead of provincial elections, an analysis says.
A report by the non-profit, U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War points to comments from U.S.-led forces suggesting "assassination squads" composed of Iranian-trained fighters have entered the country in small groups through the marshlands in eastern Iraq.
The report says several fighters with the Mehdi Army who fled to Iran received training by the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards at special camps inside Iran located near Tehran, Ahvaz, Mashad and the holy city of Qom.
Following the completion of a four-month training program, the forces were encouraged to go back to Iraq following smuggling routes in Maysan province.
Leaders in neighboring Dhi Qar province suggested foreign fighters had entered the country from Iran in groups of 20, using specially equipped motorcycles to carry out attacks in the region.
Several assassination attempts on Iraqi officials in early September, meanwhile, bear the hallmarks of Iranian-backed fighters, the report said.
As a result, U.S. and Iraqi forces have increased their vigilance against foreign fighters, arresting more than 100 alleged "special groups" fighters in the last two weeks.