Ali Mussa Daqduq

Ali Musa Daqduq is a Hezbollah commander who has trained Iran-backed militants to attack U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States accuses Daqduq of orchestrating a January 20, 2007, attack on U.S. troops in Karbala, Iraq, that killed five.“Daqduq Tribunal Chargesheet,” New York Times, January 3, 2012, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/302052/daqduq-tribunal-chargesheet.pdf. Daqduq was imprisoned in Iraq for his role in the attack but was freed in 2012.“Treasury Sanctions Hizballah Leadership,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 22, 2013, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2147.aspx; Michael R. Gordon, “Against U.S. Wishes, Iraq Releases Man Accused of Killing American Soldiers,” New York Times, November 16, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/world/middleeast/iraq-said-to-release-hezbollah-operative.html. Since 2018, Daqduq has reportedly been building a clandestine Hezbollah network in Syria along the Israeli border.Anna Ahronheim, “Hezbollah’s new terror project mastermind: ‘Worst of the worst’ – Analysis,” Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Daqduq-Hezbollahs-worst-of-the-worst-583413.

Daqduq first joined Hezbollah in 1983. He was soon assigned to command Department 2800, a Special Operations unit in Lebanon. Daqduq later coordinated the personal security of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.Phil Stewart, “Pentagon chief urges Iraq to keep Daqduq behind bars,” Reuters, June 22, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-panetta-iraq/pentagon-chief-urges-iraq-to-keep-daqduq-behind-bars-idUSBRE85L0UM20120622; American Forces Press Service, “Iran Arming, Training, Directing Terror Groups in Iraq, U.S. Official Says,” U.S. Army, July 3, 2007, https://www.army.mil/article/3890/iran_arming_training_directing_terror_groups_in_iraq_us_official_says. In 2005, Hezbollah sent Daqduq to Iran to train militants there alongside the Quds Force, the expeditionary wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). According to a U.S. assessment, Daqduq took groups of 20 to 60 Iraqis at a time to training camps inside Iran. These militants received training in intelligence, sniper and kidnapping operations, and explosives, according to U.S. military officials. These militants were part of the so-called Special Groups, Iran-supported militias in Iraq.John F. Burns and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Says Iran Helped Iraqis Kill Five G.I.’s,” New York Times, July 3, 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/03/world/middleeast/03iraq.html. In May 2006, the Quds Force sent Daqduq to Iraq to train the Special Groups. Daqduq traveled between Iran and Iraq at least four times over the following year to provide resources to Iraqi militants on behalf of Hezbollah. Among his tasks, Daqduq allegedly provided advice, training, and other assistance to Iran-backed militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) leaders Qais al-Khazali, Laith al-Khazali, and other AAH members.“Daqduq Tribunal Chargesheet,” New York Times, January 3, 2012, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/302052/daqduq-tribunal-chargesheet.pdf.

On January 20, 2007, AAH killed five U.S. soldiers after attacking the Iraqi government’s provincial headquarters in Karbala. Qais and Laith al-Khazali led the attack, which Daqduq is accused of orchestrating.“Daqduq Tribunal Chargesheet,” New York Times, January 3, 2012, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/302052/daqduq-tribunal-chargesheet.pdf; Sam Wyer, “The Resurgence of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq,” Middle East Security Report 7 (December 2012): 12, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ResurgenceofAAH.pdf; “Iraq Releases Man Held In Slayings of U.S. Soldiers,” CNN, June 9, 2009, http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/06/09/iraq.prisoner.release/index.html?_s=PM:WORLD; David D. Kirkpatrick, “Shiite Militias Pose Challenge for U.S. in Iraq,” New York Times, September 16, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/shiite-militias-pose-challenge-for-us-in-iraq.html; “Treasury Sanctions Iran-Backed Militia Leaders Who Killed Innocent Demonstrators in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 6, 2019, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm847. Coalition forces captured Daqduq and the al-Khazali brothers in Basra on March 20, 2007.American Forces Press Service, “Iran Arming, Training, Directing Terror Groups in Iraq, U.S. Official Says,” U.S. Army, July 3, 2007, https://www.army.mil/article/3890/iran_arming_training_directing_terror_groups_in_iraq_us_official_says. Daqduq refused to speak for weeks following his capture, which led U.S. forces to give him the nickname Hamid the Mute. Toward the end of April, he passed a note to guards that he would confess on May 1. The delay is suspected of giving compatriots time to hide. Beginning on May 1, Daqduq made multiple confessions to U.S. forces regarding the 2007 attack and Hezbollah’s operations in Iraq.John F. Burns and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Says Iran Helped Iraqis Kill Five G.I.’s,” New York Times, July 3, 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/03/world/middleeast/03iraq.html; “Man with al-Sadr ties held in attack on U.S. troops,” CNN.com, March 22, 2007, http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/03/22/iraq.main/. According to confessions by Daqduq and Qais al-Khazali, senior members of the Quds Force leadership supported the January 2007 operation.John F. Burns and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Says Iran Helped Iraqis Kill Five G.I.’s,” New York Times, July 3, 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/03/world/middleeast/03iraq.html.

Laith al-Khazali was released from U.S. military custody in Iraq in June 2009.Alissa J. Rubin and Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.’s,” New York Times, June 8, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/09/world/middleeast/09release.html?auth=login-smartlock. Qais al-Khazali was released in January 2010.Ernesto Londoño and Leila Fadel, “U.S. failure to neutralize Shiite militia in Iraq threatens to snarl pullout,” Washington Post, March 4, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/03/AR2010030303674.html; Sam Wyer, “The Resurgence of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq,” Middle East Security Report 7 (December 2012): 11-12, http://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ResurgenceofAAH.pdf. By the start of December 2011, the United States was preparing to complete its withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year. Daqduq was the last remaining security prisoner in U.S. custody and officials wanted to ensure that he would remain in prison. U.S. military and political leaders debated bringing Daqduq back to the United States for prosecution or transferring him to the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, versus transferring him to Iraqi authorities with the possibility that he would be quickly freed. The 2008 Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States barred the latter from removing prisoners from Iraq without the consent of the Iraqi government.Charlie Savage, “Detainee in Iraq Poses a Dilemma as U.S. Exit Nears,” New York Times, December 11, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/world/middleeast/militarys-last-detainee-in-iraq-poses-dilemma-for-obama.html. President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki discussed Daqduq’s fate during a December 12 White House meeting but did not reach a consensus.Mark Landler, “Obama and Iraqi Premier Signify Shift to a Postwar Partnership,” New York Times, December 12, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/world/middleeast/obama-meets-maliki-to-chart-broad-shifts-in-iraq.html. On December 16, U.S. forces transferred Daqduq to Iraqi custody after receiving assurances that he would be tried.Charlie Savage, “U.S. Transfers Its Last Prisoner in Iraq to Iraqi Custody,” New York Times, December 16, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/17/world/middleeast/us-transfers-last-prisoner-to-iraqi-government.html.

U.S. officials suspected that Daqduq’s admissions to belonging to Hezbollah and orchestrating the 2007 attack would be dismissed by the Iraqi courts, but instead hoped Daqduq would be sentenced for illegally entering Iraq. Military officials issued assurances that Daqduq had confessed of his own free will and had not been subjected to torture or other enhanced interrogation.Jack Healy and Charlie Savage, “Iraqi Court Acts to Free Suspect in Deadly Raid on G.I.’s,” New York Times, May 7, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/world/middleeast/in-case-that-has-vexed-americans-defendant-in-iraq-could-go-free.html?searchResultPosition=5. In preparation for a possible extradition request, U.S. military prosecutors filed charges against Daqduq on January 3, 2012. They charged him with murder, perfidy, terrorism, and espionage.Charlie Savage, “Prisoner in Iraq Tied to Hezbollah Faces U.S. Military Charges,” New York Times, February 23, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/world/middleeast/us-approves-military-tribunal-case-for-detainee.html?searchResultPosition=3. Nonetheless, on May 7, 2012, an Iraqi court ordered Daqduq be released from custody based on a lack of evidence linking him to the January 2007 attack.Jack Healy and Charlie Savage, “Iraqi Court Acts to Free Suspect in Deadly Raid on G.I.’s,” New York Times, May 7, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/08/world/middleeast/in-case-that-has-vexed-americans-defendant-in-iraq-could-go-free.html?searchResultPosition=5.

Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Reuters in June 2012 that the Iraqi government had pledged it would not release Daqduq.Phil Stewart, “Pentagon chief urges Iraq to keep Daqduq behind bars,” Reuters, June 22, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-panetta-iraq/pentagon-chief-urges-iraq-to-keep-daqduq-behind-bars-idUSBRE85L0UM20120622. The United States sought to extradite Daqduq, but an Iraqi court ruled that the charges against Daqduq had already been dropped and rejected the request that August.Associated Press, “Iraq Blocks US Extradition for Hezbollah Commander,” San Diego Union-Tribune, August 2, 2012, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-iraq-blocks-us-extradition-for-hezbollah-commander-2012aug02-story.html. Despite U.S. objections, Iraqi officials released Daqduq in November 2012.“Treasury Sanctions Hizballah Leadership,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 22, 2013, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2147.aspx; Michael R. Gordon, “Against U.S. Wishes, Iraq Releases Man Accused of Killing American Soldiers,” New York Times, November 16, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/world/middleeast/iraq-said-to-release-hezbollah-operative.html. Hezbollah’s representative in Iraq, Mohammad al-Kawtharani, reportedly helped secure Daqduq’s release.“Treasury Sanctions Hizballah Leadership,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 22, 2013, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2147.aspx; Michael R. Gordon, “Against U.S. Wishes, Iraq Releases Man Accused of Killing American Soldiers,” New York Times, November 16, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/world/middleeast/iraq-said-to-release-hezbollah-operative.html.

In March 2019, Israeli media reported that Daqduq was setting up a clandestine Hezbollah network called the Golan Project in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. According to Israeli intelligence, the network is collecting intelligence on Israeli military activity along the border. Hezbollah reportedly appointed Daqduq to head up this network in late 2018. According to the Israeli military, Hezbollah set up the network without notifying the Syrian regime.Felicia Schwartz, “Israel Says Hezbollah Operative Is Setting Up a Terror Network in Golan Heights,” Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/israel-says-hezbollah-operative-is-setting-up-a-terror-network-in-golan-heights-11552449610?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=1; Anna Ahronheim, “Hezbollah’s new terror project mastermind: ‘Worst of the worst’ - Analysis,” Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2019, https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Daqduq-Hezbollahs-worst-of-the-worst-583413.

United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi pursuant to Executive Order 13224 for acting on behalf of Hezbollah on November 19, 2012.“Treasury Designates Hizballah Commander Responsible for American Deaths in Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 19, 2012, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg1775.aspx.

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