Arrested Former Al-Sadr Spokesman Qais Khazaali Trained in Iran
Qais Khazaali and his followers were carrying the ID cards of the 5 murdered American soldiers when they were arrested on Wednesday.
The 5 US soldiers were murdered in late January in a very sophisticated attack by English-speaking terrorists who were driving black GMC Suburban vehicles (the type used by U.S. government convoys), had American weapons, and wore new U.S. military combat fatigues.
Anti-American former Spokesman for Al-Sadr, Qais Al-Khazaali, is a cleric in his mid-30’s.
The Shiite insurgent leaders who were arrested this week and believed to be behind the murder of 5 US soldiers trained in Iran and was once the chief spokesman for Al-Sadr.
The Military Times has more on the brothers and their followers:
Qais Al-Khaazli is a cleric in his early 30s. The tall and slender man was a close al-Sadr aide in 2003 and 2004. He was al-Sadr’s chief spokesman for most of 2004 and made nearly daily appearances on Arabic satellite news channels. He has not been seen in public since late that year.
Outspoken and uncompromisingly anti-American, al-Khazaali was a savvy spokesman, who went out of his way to accommodate the scores of Western and Arab reporters that covered the fighting in the summer of 2004 in the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad.
When al-Sadr stood to deliver the Friday sermon in a mosque in Kufa, Najaf’s twin city, in the months leading up to the Najaf battles, a stern faced al-Khazaali stood motionless to the right of his leader. Both wore white shrouds over their clerical robes, suggesting their readiness for martyrdom.
In the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, al-Khazaali led groups of young clerics loyal to al-Sadr who protected his native Sadr City, the teeming Shiite district in eastern Baghdad, against looters and worked to restore basic services.
In Washington Wednesday, a Pentagon official who declined to be identified because of the information’s sensitivity, confirmed that some gunmen had gone to Iran for training and that al-Khazaali has a following. However, the official could not confirm the number of his followers or whether Iran was financing them.
The two Mahdi Army commanders blamed several recent attacks on U.S. forces in eastern Baghdad on the splinter group they said was led by al-Khazaali. They also said they believed the breakaway force had organized the attempt last week to kill Rahim al-Darraji, Sadr City’s mayor.
Al-Darraji, who is close to the Sadrist movement, was involved in talks with the U.S. military about extending the five-week-old Baghdad security sweep into Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold in eastern Baghdad that was a no-go zone for American forces until about three weeks ago.
Al-Darraji was seriously wounded and two of his bodyguards were killed.
Alphabet City has more on the Al-Khazaali brothers training in Iran from news reports before they were arrested.