(CNSNews.com) – One day after the United States handed over to the Iraqi authorities a Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist accused of killing at least five American soldiers, Iraqi officials were quoted as saying the prisoner will face criminal charges – for illegal entry.
Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press Saturday that Ali Musa Daqduq would be prosecuted for entering the country with an illegal passport, an offense carrying a prison term of just over five years.
The officials also said an investigative judge would consider the U.S. allegations against him, AP reported.
One of the final actions taken by the U.S. government as the last American troops left Iraq was to hand over Daqduq over to the Iraqis, a move congressional critics described as “disgraceful.”
Some Republican lawmakers had voiced concern that the Iraqis would either release or transfer him to Iran, Hezbollah’s sponsor. They had pressed earlier for the suspect to be tried before a military tribunal at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the Iraqis had assured the U.S. government that justice would be done in Daqduq’s case.
“We take this case extremely seriously, and for that reason have sought and received assurances that he will be tried for his crimes,” he said. “We have worked this at the highest levels of the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and we continue to discuss with the Iraqis the best way to ensure that he faces justice.”
In a statement, Republicans Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and independent Joe Lieberman (Conn.) deplored Daqduq’s handover.
“Coming on the heels of the administration’s failure to maintain a small American military presence in Iraq to support the fragile peace there, this failure to keep a committed murderer of Americans in U.S. custody sends exactly the wrong message to our allies and enemies in the region,” they said.
The senators said they were “deeply concerned that Daqduq will never have to answer for his involvement in killing U.S. citizens, that he could be released from Iraqi custody for political reasons, and that he would then return to the fight against the United States and our friends.”
“Daqduq is a terrorist responsible for killing five American soldiers,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Judiciary, in a statement. “If the administration is truly serious about this case, they’ll try him for war crimes in a military tribunal, not increase the chances that he will end up sipping tea in Tehran.”
‘Return to the battlefield’
According to the U.S. military, Daqduq has been a member of Hezbollah since 1983 – Iran created the Lebanese proxy shortly after the Islamic revolution – and his roles included that of bodyguard for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Daqduq’s capture in the southern city of Basra in March 2007 was a significant development, reaffirming the extent of Iranian covert operations inside Iraq, including its funding and training of Iraqi Shi’ite “special groups” responsible for bombings, killings and kidnappings of coalition and Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians.
Daqduq was accused of training Iraqis in the use of rockets, mortars, and the particularly lethal type of improvised explosive devices known as “explosively formed penetrators,” with shaped charges designed to pierce armored vehicles.
Crucially, the U.S. military also held him responsible for a brazen attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala on January 20 of that year, in which assailants wearing U.S.-style military fatigues killed an American soldier, then abducted and murdered four more.
Pfc. Johnathon Millican, 20, of Trafford, Ala., was killed in the hand-grenade and gunfire attack. The men abducted and later found shot dead in the attackers’ abandoned vehicles were Capt. Brian Freeman, 31, of Temecula, Calif., 1st Lieutenant. Jacob Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Neb., Spc. Jonathan Chism, 22, of Gonzales, La., and Pfc. Shawn Falter, 25, of Cortland, N.Y.
During a briefing that July., Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner gave details of Daqduq’s activities on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations unit, the Qods Force.
“He is Lebanese-born and has served for the past 24 years in Lebanese Hezbollah,” Bergner said. “He was in Iraq working as a surrogate for Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force operatives involved with special groups.”
Bergner said Hezbollah’s leadership instructed Daqduq in 2005 to go to Iran and “work with the Qods Force to train Iraqi extremists.”
“In the year prior to his capture, Ali Musa Daqduq made four trips to Iraq,” he said. “He monitored and reported on the training and arming of special groups in mortars and rockets, manufacturing and employment of improvised explosive devices, and kidnapping operations. Most significantly, he was tasked to organize the special groups in ways that mirrored how Hezbollah was organized in Lebanon.”
Documents found on Daqduq at the time of his capture included a planning guide which along with interrogations provided details of Qods Force involvement in promoting Shi’ite terror in Iraq. Bergner said the Iranians were giving up to $3 million each month to the Iraqi special groups.
Daqduq was captured along with a senior Iraqi special groups figure – and former spokesman for extremist Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – Qais Khazali, and Bergner said the both men had confirmed Qods Force support for the Karbala attack.
(Two months after the terrorists were captured, a British IT specialist in Baghdad, Peter Moore, was kidnapped from the Iraqi finance ministry, together with four British bodyguards, by gunmen wearing Iraqi police uniforms,. The kidnappers demanded the release of Daqduq and Khazali. Three of the bodyguards were later killed, the fourth remains unaccounted for. Moore was finally freed after 31 months in captivity, reportedly in exchange for Khazali’s release.)
Twenty U.S. senators – 19 Republicans and Lieberman – wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last July urging him to “take whatever steps you can to block Daqduq’s transfer to the Iraqi government and out of U.S. custody.”
“If he is released from United States custody, there is little doubt that Daqduq will return to the battlefield and resume his terrorist activities against the United States and our interests,” they wrote.
Hezbollah has never confirmed links to Daqduq. As the last U.S. troops left Iraq, the Lebanese group Friday hailed what it called an historic victory that forced the Americans to withdraw, “humiliated.”
“This victory, achieved by the sacrifices of thousands of martyrs and injured people, is a role model for all the oppressed peoples of the world in the face of arrogant powers,” Hezbollah said in a statement released on its al-Manar television network.