BAGHDAD – Iraqi Shiite extremists are being trained by members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in camps near Tehran, a U.S. military spokesman said Monday.
Iraqis are receiving the training at camps operated by the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been accused of training and funneling weapons to Shiite extremists in Iraq.
The group is also known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force, or IRGC-QF. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
The Quds Force is believed to operate overseas, helping to create the militant Shiite Hezbollah group in 1982 in Lebanon and to arm Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan wars.
"We have multiple detainees who state Lebanese Hezbollah are providing training to Iraqis in Iranian IRGC-QF training camps near Tehran," Air Force Col. Donald Bacon, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told The Associated Press.
The U.S. has accused Iran of supporting Shiite militias in Iraq. But Iran, which is predominantly Shiite like Iraq, has blamed violence in the war-torn country on the U.S. presence.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have for the past six weeks battled Shiite extremists in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra. Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting against members of so-called "special groups" that have broken away from Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.
Iran said Monday it would not hold a new round of talks with the U.S. on security in Iraq until American forces end their current assault against Shiite militias.
A five-member Iraqi delegation was sent to Tehran last week to try to choke off suspected Iranian aid to militiamen. They met with Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, but no clear details emerged from the meeting.
The first reports of Hezbollah training emerged in March 2007, when US forces captured Qais Khazali, the senior Special Groups leader for Iraq, and Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Lebanese Hezbollah commander captured along with him. The arrests took place in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
"Ali Mussa Daqduq confirmed Lebanese Hezbollah were providing training to Iraqi Special Group members in Iran and that his role was to assess the quality of training and make recommendations on how the training could be improved. In this role, he traveled to Iraq on four occasions and was captured on his fourth trip," Bacon told The AP in an e-mail.
Since then, Bacon said "we have captured other Iraqis who have discussed their training in Iran and who state many of their instructors were Lebanese Hezbollah.