BAGHDAD — The U.S. military has reported the flight of Iraqi Shi'ite insurgents to Iran.Any day now, a Shi'ite insurgent comedian will scrawl on a Baghdad wall somewhere, "The last al -Qaida thug to leave Iraq, please turn off the lights."
Officials said Iranian-sponsored insurgents in Iraq have left their country and relocated to Teheran amid counter-insurgency operations by the U.S. and Iraqi militaries. They said many of the insurgents who left were members of the Iranian-sponsored Special Groups, Middle East Newsline reported.
"We also know many Special Groups criminals that we target have recently fled to Iran as well," U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of Multinational Division Baghdad, said.
Hammond, who also commands the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, said Special Groups fighters have been hampered by Iraq Army operations in Baghdad and Basra. The two-star general said Iraqi security forces have discovered more than 83 caches of mostly Iranian weapons in Baghdad's Sadr City since May 20.
"We've killed or detained 455 Special Groups operatives in the last six months," Hammond told a briefing on Monday. "Now, intelligence reports indicate that these criminals receive support from elements in Iran."
Despite its denials, Hammond said, Iran continues to supply Iraqi Shi'ite insurgents with weapons and training. He said Iraqi and U.S. units have confiscated weapons manufactured in Iran in 2008.
"I can tell you some weapons recovered in Baghdad were identified as being produced in Iran," Hammond said. "The most recent data production [mark] was February 2008."
Hammond said the Special Groups, believed to consist of defectors from the Mahdi Army, has sustained heavy losses over the last month. In Sadr City, Iraqi security forces killed 163 Special Groups members.
Iraqi and U.S. troops also found 175 improvised explosive devices, 76 of them deemed explosively-formed projectiles, designed to pierce Western-origin main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers. The weapons caches also contained rocket-propelled grenades and rifles as well as more than 320 mortar rounds. Hammond said the Iraq Army, with U.S. air support, destroyed 61 enemy mortar teams in Sadr City.
"There are still challenges ahead," Hammond said.
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.