Lawmaker’s links to Iran probed

BAGHDAD — U.S. officials are investigating reports that an Iraqi lawmaker took part in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait and is a conduit for Iranian weapons and supplies smuggled to Shi’ite militias, a U.S. spokesman said yesterday.

Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, who was elected to parliament in December 2005 on the Shi’ite ticket, was sentenced to death in Kuwait years ago for his role in the bombings, in which five persons were killed, but fled to Iran, CNN reported. He returned to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but has not attended any legislative sessions since last year and is thought to be in Iran, Shi’ite lawmakers said.

CNN said U.S. military intelligence in Iraq thinks Mohammed, also known as Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis and Jaafar Jamal Jaafar, helps Iranian special forces in Iraq as “a conduit for weapons and political influence.”

The network said U.S. military intelligence officials had approached the Shi’ite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki about the reports.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said the Americans “are actively investigating these allegations and continue to be in close contact with the government of Iraq in pursuing this case.”

Bassam Redha, an adviser to Mr. al-Maliki, acknowledged that Mohammed was the subject of claims arising from the 1983 bombings, but said that parliament was the only body qualified to deal with his case because legislators have immunity from prosecution.

An engineering graduate from Basra University in southern Iraq, Mohammed was active in the Shi’ite opposition to Saddam and was affiliated with the political and military wing of the Badr Brigade. He served as a top commander in the militia in the 1980s.

The brigade was organized and trained by the Iranians to fight Iraq in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and was led by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a key political figure here. Mohammed served as a political adviser to Mr. al-Maliki’s predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military denied any involvement of coalition forces in the purported abduction of an Iranian diplomat in Baghdad on Sunday.

Iraqi officials said gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms seized the diplomat as he drove through central Baghdad. One government official said the Iranian diplomat was detained by an Iraqi army unit that reports directly to the U.S. military.

“We’ve checked with our units and it was not [a Multi-National Force ? Iraq] unit that participated in that event,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman.

The Iranian government condemned the seizure of Jalal Sharafi, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, and held the American forces in Iraq responsible for his safety, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The U.S. military said a Marine was killed in fighting in the volatile Anbar province on Monday. At least 25 persons were killed in bombs, mortar attacks and shootings nationwide.

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