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U.S. troops in security alert in Iraq over Iranian threats: top commander

U.S. troops in security alert in Iraq over Iranian threats: top commander

[13/July/2010]



BAGHDAD, July 13 (Saba) -- The U.S. troops in Iraq heightened security in their bases in Iraq after a threat that an Iranian- backed militant group has plans to carry out attacks against the U. S. forces, top U.S. military commander in Iraq said Tuesday, according to Xinhua.

General Ray Odierno said that there has been some intelligence about an Iranian-backed Shiite militant group, named "Kataib Hezbollah" which is trying to attack U.S. bases, prompting the U.S. troops to increase security measures.

"In the last couple weeks there has been an increased threat, and we've increased our security on some of our bases," Odierno said in a briefing to reporters.

The U.S. commander also said that the overall attacks against his military convoys in Iraq has been "fairly low", but he described the latest threat by Iranian-backed groups as "a very consistent threat."

He said that the Kataib Hezbollah group is planning to use rocket-propelled explosive device called Rocket-Assisted Munitions, or IRAMs.

The IRAM is made from a large metal canister such as a propane gas cylinder that has been drained of its contents and filled with explosives, scrap metal, and ball bearings.

Previously, the U.S. military frequently accused Iran of arming, financing and training Iraqi Shiite militias to carry out attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces, along with fueling sectarian violence in the war-torn country. Iran denied the accusations.

However, Odierno confirmed that the U.S. troops withdrawal from Iraq would not be disrupted by the latest threat, saying that his assessed the Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining security and stability in Iraq.

He said that there are currently about 74,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and by the end of August there will be 50,000 troops.

"We're going to have 50,000 American soldiers on the ground here," he said, adding "We're not abandoning Iraq. We're changing our commitment from military-dominated to one that is civilian led. "

He also said that the 50,000 U.S. troops left in Iraq "is still a significant capability and we still can do many things with 50, 000 soldiers," he concluded.

On June 30 last year, the U.S. forces pulled out of major Iraqi cities and are now working on formally ending combat operations by Sept. 1 of this year, cutting their U.S. military force to 50,000, according to an agreement signed between Baghdad and Washington late in 2008.

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