Sunday, November 07, 2004

Boston.com / Along border, Kurds say, Iran gives boost to uprising part 2

Boston.com / News / World / Middle East / Along border, Kurds say, Iran gives boost to uprising: "Along border, Kurds say, Iran gives boost to uprising
November 7, 2004

Page 2 of 3 -- Tehran has said it does not allow militants to cross the border, but Iranian officials have not ruled out that Islamic fighters might be moving illegally from Iran to Iraq.

Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, said at the time: "From the outset, Iran has tried to help Iraq overcome its problems."

But Othman, the Kurdish regional security chief, said that despite impressive internal security forces, Iran has not stopped terror groups from living and training just across the border in a group of Iranian Kurdish cities.

Othman said that Kurdish forces had arrested many members of Ansar al-Islam, including three top leaders over the last six months. Ansar al-Islam operated for two years in a cluster of villages between Halabja and Tuwella. The US government identified Ansar as a terrorist group, and believes it sheltered Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for two months before the US invasion in 2003.

According to Othman and other intelligence officials, Ansar's members have reconstituted as a new group, Ansar al-Sunni, or have joined Zarqawi. US officials have made the same claim.

According to information gleaned from questioning of the arrested Ansar members, Othman said, former Ansar fighters are now based in the Iranian border towns of Marivan (home to about 60 Kurdish Islamists), Sanandaj, Dezli (where about 30 Iranian villagers have joined the Islamist cause) and Orumiyeh (the base for up to 300 Islamists, including Gulf Arabs, Afghans and Kurds). They have a training camp in Dolanau, just a few kilometers from the Iraqi border. Three other leading officials have confirmed this.

"Iran continues its relationship with Ansar," Othman said. "They are training them how to use explosive ordnance for terrorist attacks in the south of Iraq."

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan controls the half of the region that includes the major cities of Suleimaniya and Halabja, where three powerful groups held territory from 2001 to 2003.

Its security and intelligence arm, the Asaish, has offices across Iraq, including Mosul, Baghdad, and Baquba, and has sources in centers including Fallujah, said the agency's leader, Dana Ahmed Majid. The Asaish has operated as an independent agency for more than a decade, and has worked closely with US intelligence.

Mohammed Mohammed Saeed, a peshmerga commander and the top PUK official in the region around Halabja, said that Iran regularly sends intelligence agents into Kurdistan to monitor the Kurdish peshmerga and the movements of Americans.

Iran used to have offices in Suleimaniya and Halabja until US special forces landed in the region in March 2003. But, Saeed said, the Iranians have retained their spy network inside Iraq, and are now using it to watch American forces and to help insurgents.

"The Iranians are worried," he said. "They don't want a pro-American government in Iraq. The Iranians want neighboring countries to be full of anarchy, violence, and chaos." Continued..."

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