By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 6, 2007 - The U.S. military will release nine Iranian prisoners because they no longer threaten Iraq's security, a U.S. military official said today. Meanwhile, recent evidence reveals a decline in the number of Iranian-supplied munitions in Iraq. During a news conference in Baghdad, Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said the U.S. began the multiparty detainee-release process today and intends to release the nine Iranians in coming days.
"These individuals have been assessed to be of no continuing value," he said. "Nor do they pose a further threat to Iraqi security."
Two of the prisoners to be released were captured by coalition forces Jan. 11 in Irbil, Iraq, along with three other Iranians. Smith did not indicate if or when the three others would be released from U.S. custody.
Days after the arrests in Irbil, a city in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, military officials reported that the five detainees were connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, according to a Multinational Force Iraq news release. The Quds Force is an organization known to provide funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Iraqi government and attack coalition forces.
Among other forms of support, Iran has been accused by U.S. military officials of providing materials for making explosively formed penetrators, a highly lethal version of improvised explosive devices responsible for maiming and killing scores of coalition troops.
But in a related development meanwhile, Smith today said the number of Iranian-made explosives in Iraq has declined.
Last month, coalition forces found a cache of weapons in Sada village that included one of the largest explosively formed projectile stockpiles discovered to date, Smith said. The cache contained 120 fully-assembled EFPs and scores of components used to fashion the homemade deadly charges, including some 150 copper discs, 600 pounds of C4 explosives, 100 mortar rounds, and 30 107 mm rockets.
In Husseiniyah last week, a citizen led coalition forces to a building being used by insurgents as an EFP factory, where troops found roughly 10 fully prepared projectiles of various sizes, including a 12-inch EFP -- among the largest found in Iraq. Coalition forces also seized some 90 copper plates, more than 200 pounds of C4, and other explosive-making materials including TNT, Smith said.
The admiral noted that coalition military officials had spoken previously of Iran's influence in Iraq "through supplying terrorists and criminals with rockets and EFPs."
"However," he added, "the EFPs we have found ... do not appear to have arrived in Iraq after the Iranians made their pledge to stop arming, funding and training extremists."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki secured a pledge in September from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stem weapons and other support Iran was providing militiamen in Iraq. "We hope in the coming weeks and months to confirm that Iran has indeed honored its pledge through further verification that the flow of munitions and other lethal aide has stopped," Smith said.