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Retired IRGC Official: ‘We Trained al-Qaeda Fighters’

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Mourners in Iran march with the portrait of an IRGC fighter beheaded by ISIS in Syria (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
Mourners in Iran march with the portrait of an IRGC fighter beheaded by ISIS in Syria. (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

A former spokesman for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) revealed a level of cooperation between Iran and al-Qaeda which previously remained under wraps, Al Arabiya reported.

Said Qasemi, now retired, said Iran sent IRGC soldiers to Bosnia and Herzegovina disguised as humanitarian workers from the Iranian branch of the Red Crescent (part of the International Red Cross) to train al-Qaeda fighters who ran an operational base in the Balkan country.

Just last month, the Trump administration designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

“The IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft. The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign,” said President Trump.

Hossein Allahkaram, an IRGC official who leads the Iranian paramilitary group The Supporters of Hezbollah, and was said to be one of the commanders of the IRGC’s Quds Force in the Bosnian War, confirmed Qasemi’s statement.

“There used to be an al-Qaeda branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Allahkaram said. “They were connected to us in a number of ways. Even though they were training within their own base, when they engaged in weapons training, they joined us in various activities.”

“We’ve known for many years the IRGC operated in different places around the world, often assuming disguises. This information represents one of the rare opportunities where Iran itself is admitting to this. This is not to mention their cooperation with an organization like al-Qaeda outside of Iran,” Clarion’s Arab Affairs Analyst and Shillman Fellow Ran Meir said.

The IRGC officially denied Qasemi’s revelations, saying Qasemi used to be a “volunteer” in Bosnia and Herzegovina many years ago but retired many years ago. The IRGC said his statements reflect his personal views and are not reliable.

“Statements such as these only give help to the enemies of the Iranian revolution,” said Ramadan Sharif, the IRGC’s current spokesman.

This is not first time that leaders in the IRGC or Iranian regime officials have disclosed information about Iran’s cooperation with al-Qaeda.

In 2018, for example, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, Iranian politician and senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khomenei, said in an interview on Iranian TV that Iran facilitated the passage through its territory of the al-Qaeda fighters responsible for 9/11.

Larijani also gave details about how the Iranian regime is connected to al-Qaeda and how Iranian intelligence officials supervised the passage and housing of al-Qaeda fighters in Iran.

The September 11 report by the U.S. government also noted this fact, saying Iran allowed al-Qaeda fighters traveling from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan and other destinations to pass through Iran and agreed not to stamp their passports. The report noted all of their movements were under the supervision of Iranian intelligence agents.

Reacting to the latest revelations, the Iranian Red Crescent protested the use of their organization for nefarious purposes and said they will press charges.

Clarion Project previously documented Iran’s cooperation with al-Qaeda, including:

  • In 2017, documents were released that were seized during the 2011 raid that killed al-Qaeda head Osama Bin Laden. The documents detailed the cooperation between al-Qaeda and Iran. The release of the documents was previously squashed by the Obama administration.
  • In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a number of al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists and disclosed their Iranian ties.
  • In 2013, two individuals linked to the al-Qaeda network in Iran were arrested in Canada, which foiled their plot to derail a train from New York to Toronto. Though Canadian officials and media reports emphasized there was no evidence tying the Iranian regime to the plot, the Obama Administration confirmed in 2011 that Iran and Al-Qaeda had a “secret deal.”
  • In July 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department said, “By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al-Qaeda, allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism.” The Treasury further said the Al-Qaeda network in Iran served as a “core pipeline” for the terrorist group to move personnel and resources from the Middle East to South Asia.

 

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