US forces in Iraq detain,kill Iran-backed suspects

Wed Dec 3, 2008 3:14am EST


BAGHDAD, Dec 3 (Reuters) - U.S. forces in Iraq captured two suspected members of an Iranian-backed network and killed a third on Wednesday, part of U.S. efforts to target a group it says has attacked Iraqi citizens and foreign troops.

The three belong to an insurgent group called Katai'b Hezbollah, the U.S. military said in a statement. Four other suspected members of the group were detained on Monday.

The U.S. military said forces launched early morning raids in Baghdad's Karrada district. At one residence, two suspected leaders of a Katai'b Hezbollah cell were detained without incident.

At a second location, a man attacked U.S.-led forces as they tried to enter a building and was killed, it said.

The U.S. military said Katai'b Hezbollah was thought to be a "surrogate" of Iran, a long-time foe of the United States.

U.S. troops have caught more than 30 suspects the U.S. military says are sponsored by Iran in the last four weeks.

Washington accuses Shi'ite Iran of arming, funding and training fighters who attack U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

Iran denies the charge and blames the U.S. military presence in Iraq for bloodshed between majority Shi'ites and once dominant Sunni Arabs that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Iraq's Sunni Arabs initially sided with al Qaeda in opposing U.S. troops.

Last month U.S. forces released an Iranian construction official seized in Baghdad on suspicion of belonging to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and of smuggling weapons into Iraq.

An Iranian embassy official said arresting forces had confused a packet of salt in his luggage for cocaine. (Reporting by Michael Christie; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)