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A US military map of Iran’s operations inside southern Iraq. This 2007 map formed the basis of The Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq. Click to view full size.

Iraqi troops uncovered a massive weapons cache and factory inside the northeastern neighborhood of Sadr City. The cache contained 34 of the deadly explosively-formed penetrators, the weapons that are the hallmark of the Iranian-backed Shia militias. This is the third large cache found in Sadr City since Oct. 20.

The raid was conducted in the northern area of Sadr City, the former stronghold of Muqtada al Sadr’s Iranian-backed Mahdi Army. Iraqi troops from the 44th Brigade of the 11th Iraqi Army Division conducted the operation after receiving tips from residents in Sadr City.

The find is "significant as it included the machines used by the enemy to manufacture explosively-formed penetrators – the number one killer of our US soldiers," said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad.

EFPs, EFP cones and other materials siezed int he Oct. 28 raid. Image from Multinational Division Baghdad. Click to view.

The soldiers found 34 EFPs, 53 copper plates and 40 shaped plates, which are used for the EFP’s shaped warhead, 160 blocks of C4 explosives, and 14 107 mm rockets and launch rails. Also found were three presses and a punch, machinery that is thought to be used to mill the copper plates into the cone-shaped warhead.

Since Oct. 20, Iraqi troops found two other large caches in Sadr City. A raid by troops from the 3rd Battalion, 42nd Brigade of the 11th Iraq Army Division on Oct. 20 resulted in the discovery of 61 rockets, 368 mortar rounds, 263 mortar tubes, shape charges, an IED, 32,000 rounds of ammunition, seven DSHKA machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades launchers and grenades, and other equipment.

The same Iraqi Army unit also found a large cache in Sadr City the day prior. The troops found 15 EFPs, an IED, two 72.5 mm rockets, two 64 mm rockets, numerous RPG launchers and warheads and hand grenades, and other equipment.

In all, 49 of the deadly EFPs have been found by Iraqi troops since Oct. 20.

Iraqi and Coalition forces have maintained the pressure on the Iranian-backed terror groups operating inside Iraq during the month of October. Seven Iranian-trained Special Groups fighters have been killed and 118 have been confirmed captured during raids since Oct. 1, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Iraqi forces also detained 180 “suspects” in Basrah during a sweep on Oct. 28, but it is unclear how many are considered Special Groups fighters. One of the men detained was a Pakistani.

Twenty-eight of the Iranian-backed Shia terrorists captured since Oct. 1 are members of the Hezbollah Brigades. The Hezbollah Brigades is an Iranian-backed terror group that has been behind multiple roadside bombings and rocket attacks against US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad. This group uploads videos of attacks onto the Internet.

Coalition forces have captured 16 Hezbollah Brigades operatives since Oct 21. A raid in Amarah netted an "Iranian-backed financer" and four associates. More than $50,000 and almost 12 million Iraqi Dinar (approximately $10,000) was found during the raid. On Oct. 28, four operatives, including an "administrator," were captured during an operation in Abd ar Rahman, about 4 miles east of Sadr City. Another three Hezbollah Brigades were captured in Baghdad on Oct. 21.

Taking on Qods Force

Iraqi security forces are also zeroing in on Iran’s network inside Iraq. Iraqi forces have captured nine Iranian Qods Force agents and killed one since Oct. 18. Iraqi soldiers captured an Iranian "infiltrator" during a sweep in Basrah on Oct. 28. Iraqi troops killed one Iranian agent captured another during a clash in Al Kut in Wasit province on Oct. 24. Iraqi police captured three armed Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officers in Al Kut on Oct. 20. Border guards captured four more in Mandali in Diyala province.

US military officers believe Iran is ramping up its operations inside Iraq after its surrogates suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Iraqi military during the spring and summer of 2008. Iraqi troops went of the offensive against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed terror groups in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq. More than 2,000 Mahdi Army were killed and thousands more were wounded. The operation forced Muqtada al Sadr to agree to a cease-fire and disband the Mahdi Army.

Qods Force may also be looking to take a more active role in directing operations at the tactical level inside Iraq, A US military officer told The Long War Journal. Prior to this week, only a handful of Iranian operatives, along with a Lebanese Hezbollah leader, have been reported captured inside Iraq. The more than 3,000 Mahdi Army leaders and operatives that are said to have fled to Iran to regroup and rearm are believed to be infiltrating back into Iraq.

Background on Iran’s backing of the Shia terror groups

Qods Force has supported various Shia militias and terror groups inside Iraq, including the Mahdi Army, which it helped build along the same lines as Lebanese Hezbollah. Iran denies the charges, but captive Shia terrorists admit to being recruited by Iranian agents, and then transported into Iran for training.

Iran established the Ramazan Corps immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime to direct operations inside Iraq. The US military says Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah have helped establish, fund, train, and arm, and have provided operational support for Shia terror groups such as the Hezbollah Brigades and the League of the Righteous. The US military refers to these groups as well as the Iranian-backed elements of the Mahdi Army as the "Special Groups." These groups train in camps inside Iran.

US and Iraqi forces have captured several high-level Qods Force officers inside Iraq since late 2006. Among those captured are Mahmud Farhadi, one of the three Iranian regional commanders in the Ramazan Corps; Ali Mussa Daqduq, a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative; Qais Qazali, the leader of the Qazali Network; and Azhar al Dulaimi, one of Qazali’s senior tactical commanders. The US has imposed sanctions on Major General Ahmad Foruzandeh, the former Qods Force commander, and Abdul Reza Shahlai, a deputy commander in Iran’s Qods Force, for backing Shia terror groups inside Iraq.