Wednesday, March 22, 2006

US Officials Fear Iran is helping Al Qaeda

Adnkronos International:
One day after a US daily reported that American intelligence officials believe the Iranian regime is hosting al-Qaeda militants and allowing senior operatives to help plan the network's operations, an Iranian source close to the reformists confirmed the report to Adnkronos International (AKI). "With the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad relations with al-Qaeda have been resumed and strengthened," said the source, who used to work for Iran's intelligence services under the government of Mohammed Khatami.

The Los Angeles Times said US intelligence officials cited evidence from highly classified satellite feeds and electronic eavesdropping as proof that the recently elected Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be forging an alliance with the terrorist network's operatives as a way to expand Iran's influence. The report said the president might also simply be looking the other way as al-Qaeda leaders in Iran cooperate with their counterparts abroad. READ MORE

According to the source consulted by AKI, around 100 members of the terrorist organisation are living in Iran under the protection of the Pasdaran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Soleyman Abu Gaith, Seif al-Adel, Abdullah Mohammad Rajab, Abdulaziz al-Masri and Abu Mohammed al-Masri are men close to al-Qaeda currently in Iran, according to the United States. The former intelligence official told AKI the list also included "three children and two wives of Osama bin Laden." He also recalled that al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri recently visited the Islamic Republic "to meet with three envoys of Jordan's Abu Mussab al Zarqawi."

Ties between Iran and al-Qaeda were highlighted by the US September 11 commission, which disclosed many details on possible connections in its final report. The commission said Iran and the terrorist group had worked together sporadically in the 1990s, reportedly trading secrets on how to make explosives.

Many al-Qaeda operatives and family members, however, have reportedly lived in Iran since 2001, when they fled the US-led bombing of Afghanistan.

Iran declared four months ago that no al-Qaeda members live in the country, though officials have in the past claimed that some members of the terror network are kept under house arrest and their activities monitored.