BAGHDAD (AFP) – US forces arrested two Iraqis suspected of smuggling weapons and armour-piercing explosives from Iran in a dawn raid Thursday into Baghdad’s Shiite slum Sadr City, the military announced.
The arrests came ahead of a possible first meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran and United States since 1980, at an international conference on the future of Iraq in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
“The individuals targeted during the raid are suspected members of a secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq,” the military said.
The statement said the network was also training Iraqi militants in Iran.
Washington and Tehran’s fraught relationship has been recently further complicated by US accusations that the Iranians are supporting Iraqi attacks on coalition forces.
US forces say that in addition to weapons and training, Iranian forces are supplying Iraqi armed groups with specially made explosives capable of puncturing the heavy armour on military vehicles.
Iran considered boycotting the Sharm el-Sheikh conference over objections to the US detention of seven of its citizens in Iraq.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has described herself open to a “firm” dialogue with Iran at the conference amid rising pressure on Washington to engage with Tehran over the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
The latest US government report on terrorism, issued Monday, however, said Iran “remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism.”