Britain accuses Iran of running training camps for bombers

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The Independent Online

Iran is running international "training camps" for bombers who carry out attacks on British troops in Iraq, according to senior British officials.

Last week Britain accused Iran of direct complicity in the killings of British soldiers through the use of sophisticated explosive devices. Yesterday's claims went much further by accusing the Revolutionary Guard, which has close links to the Tehran government, of teaching Shia fighters to make the bombs in Iran.

The charges came after British and Iraqi forces found two unexploded devices for the first time. A forensic examination of the bombs was being made in Baghdad which officials believe will help them devise counter measures and may also yield evidence of an "Iranian signature". The armour-piercing, infra-red bombs have killed eight British soldiers since March.

British officials had claimed that the alleged Iranian involvement in Iraq was in response to what Tehran perceives as "bullying" over the nuclear issue by the West, and also to keep US and British forces tied down in Iraq to avert a possible attack on Iran. Iran has vehemently denied the accusations and has claimed instead that Britain is pressuring Iran over its nuclear programme by publicising the bombing claims.

The account of the alleged Iranian involvement made by defence and diplomatic sources in Iraq yesterday was extraordinarily detailed. One source said: "We are trying to counter the bomb threat by training the trainers and they are doing the same. People are being trained abroad and then slip back into Iraq, 10 at a time, to train others maybe 50 at a time."

The source claimed that camps were being run in Iran and Lebanon, and that there was "some evidence" that there are camps in Syria. The source said that the technology had been "proliferating", leading to a sharp rise in attacks on British troops which are running at three a week. Several large arms caches, believed to be for attacks during the impending referendum, have been found in southern Iraq. In the past eight days British, US and Iraqi forces have found more than 50 rockets, 10 mortars and 64 landmines, as well as the infra-red devices. The devices were found on Route Tampa, the main feeder route for British and American troops to Meysan, a province where coalition forces have faced periodic bouts of intense attacks.

A large quantity of arms and ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers and heavy machine guns, were found at Az-Zubayr, a militant Sunni enclave south-east of Basra.

Violence continued across Iraq yesterday resulting in more than 50 deaths. About 30 were killed in a car bombing at the town of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border. Another 15 people were killed in a car bombing in Baghdad. At least 350 people have been killed in the past 16 days. Police have also found 500 corpses, many of them mutilated.

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