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Hezbollah training Mahdi Army members: Report

The Iranian-supported group has trained between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqi Shiite militia members in Lebanon, a media report has said.

india Updated: Nov 28, 2006 13:28 IST

The Iranian-supported group Hezbollah has trained between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqi Shiite militia members in Lebanon, the New York Times reported Tuesday, citing a United States intelligence official.

The fighters include members of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, the official told the Times, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"They are the best-trained fighters in the Mahdi Army," the official said.

Hezbollah has also sent a small number of trainers to Iraq, the official added.

The intelligence was based on human and electronic sources, as well as interviews with captives in Iraq, the Times reports.

Iran acted as a facilitator between Hezbollah and Shiite Iraqi militias, the official said.

"There seems to have been a strategic decision taken sometime over late winter or early spring by Damascus, Tehran, along with their partners in Lebanese Hezbollah, to provide more support to Sadr to increase pressure on the US," the official told the Times.

The Iraqi militia members learned about "weapons, bomb-making, intelligence, assassinations, the gambit of skill sets," according to the official.

While some of the Iraqi Shiite militia members were in Lebanon during mid-year fighting between Hezbollah and Israel, there was no indication they joined the battle, the US official told the Times.