Fact Sheet: Ali Mussa Daqduq

by Elizabeth O’Bagy and Stephen Wicken

  • Ali Mussa Daqduq, a member of Lebanese Hezbollah, was a key figure among the Special Groups in Iraq from May 2006 – March 2007.
  • Daqduq had an impressive military career in Lebanon prior to his work in Iran and Iraq. He joined Lebanese Hezbollah in 1983, shortly after which he was appointed to command a Hezbollah special operations unit. Moving quickly up the ranks, he coordinated operations in large sectors of Lebanon and was also responsible for coordinating the personal security of Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.[1]  
  • Through Iranian sponsorship of Iraqi paramilitary proxies, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force (IRGC-QF) sought to replicate the model used by Lebanese Hezbollah and began training Iraqis in groups of 20 – 60 to function as a unit, or “special group.” [2]  In May 2006, Daqduq was sent to Iran with Yussef Hashim, a fellow Lebanese Hezbollah member and head of their Special Operations in Iraq, to train these Iraqi Special Groups and organize them according to a Hezbollah-style structure.[3]
  • During his time in Iran, Daqduq was in contact with Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani as well as his Deputy Commander and head of the Department of External Special Operations Hajji Yussef, acting as a key conduit between Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran.[4]
  • IRGC-QF instructed Daqduq to make trips in and out of Iraq to report on the training and operations of the Iraqi Special Groups. In the year prior to his capture, Daqduq made four such trips to Iraq. He monitored and reported on the training and arming of special groups in mortars and rockets, manufacturing and employing IEDs, and kidnapping operations.[5]
  • In June 2006, IRGC-QF appointed Qays al-Khazali as the head of Special Groups in Iraq. At the time, Khazali was the commander of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), an Iranian-backed militia group that he founded in 2006 following a split from Moqtada al-Sadr and his Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) over a challenge for leadership of the Sadr movement and its militant wing.  Daqduq was named his chief advisor and served as a liaison between the IRGC-QF and the Special Groups under Khazali’s leadership.[6]
  • On January 20, 2007, AAH gunmen with American-looking uniforms, vehicles and identification cards successfully attacked the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center (PJCC) where U.S. and Iraqi officials were holding a meeting. The gunmen killed five U.S. soldiers and wounded three more in the well-planned and executed attack, which was purportedly orchestrated by Daqduq.[7]
  • Intelligence gathered from the attack ultimately led to the capture of Khazali, his brother Laith Khazali, and Daqduq in Basra on March 20, 2007.[8]
    • When he was captured, Daqduq had detailed documents that discussed tactics to attack Iraqi and coalition forces. He also had a personal journal that showed his involvement with extremist operations in Iraq and meetings with special group members who were targeting other Iraqis and coalition forces in the Diyala province using IEDs, as well as small-arms fire.[9]
    • In March 2009, reports revealed that AAH and the Iraqi government were involved in negotiations aimed at bringing the militant group into the political process. The negotiations included discussions on a phased release of hostages being held by AAH in exchange for the release of top AAH members being held in U.S. custody.[10]
    • In June 2009, Laith Khazali was transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody and subsequently released. [11]
    •  In December 2009, Qais Khazali was transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody. He was released on January 5, 2010 and traveled to Qom, Iran shortly thereafter.[12]
    • On December 17, 2011, Daqduq was transferred to Iraqi custody, a move that sparked political controversy in the U.S. as many politicians feared that he will only face minor criminal charges in an Iraqi court.[13]
    • According to Lebanese news reports, a delegation of Lebanese Hezbollah members visited Iraq to meet with high-ranking members of the government to discuss Daqduq’s release.[14]

UPDATE- March 2, 2012

  • On January 3, 2012, military prosecutors prepared a charge sheet accusing Daqduq of crimes including murder, perfidy, terrorism, and espionage.[15] Brigadier General Mark S. Martins, the chief prosecutor of the commissions system, has not yet approved the charges.  If he does, Vice Admiral Bruce MacDonald, the official in charge of the U.S. military commissions, would decide which charges to refer for trial.[16]
  • In the same month, Commander Patrick J. Flor of the Navy was assigned to represent Daqduq. He has requested permission from the Pentagon to visit Daqduq in Iraq and view the evidence, but has not received a response.[17]
  • The charges against Daqduq were revealed publicly on February 23, 2012. Since these new developments, the military has refused to comment on whether the U.S. is actively seeking Daqduq’s extradition.

UPDATE – May 14, 2012

  • On May 7, 2012, a judge at the Central Criminal Court in Baghdad acquitted Daqduq on the grounds of lack of evidence and ordered his release. Daqduq’s lawyer, Abdul-Mahdi al-Mitairi, a Sadrist and former Minister of State in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s second government, said that under Iraqi law the verdict would be appealed immediately, with the verdict of the appeal announced in no more than six months. Hezbollah sources in Beirut insisted that Daqduq would not face any further charges. [18]
  • US military officials maintained that during his time in US custody, Daqduq had confessed freely to the killing of the five American soldiers without being subject to harsh treatment. However, under the Iraqi judicial system, evidence must be collected by an investigating judge: evidence collected by a foreign military force is inadmissible. [19]
  • According to The Cable blog, a memo approved by Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough read: “Daqduq should be held accountable for his crimes. Period. While we strongly oppose his acquittal, protections for the accused are built into all judicial systems, including our own. We transferred Daqduq to Iraqi custody out of respect for, and obligation to, the rule of law in Iraq, and while we disagree with this decision, we respect the independence of the Iraqi judiciary. We will continue to work closely with the Iraqi government to explore all legal options to pursue justice in this case.” [20]

Elizabeth O’Bagy is a Research Analyst at ISW. Stephen Wicken is a Research Assistant at ISW.

[1] Kimberly Kagan, “Iran’s Proxy War against the United States and the Iraqi Government,” Institute for the Study of War, May 2006 – August 2007.

[2] Jim Garamone, “Iran Arming, Training, Directing Terror Groups in Iraq, U.S. Official Says,” American Forces Press Service, July 2, 2007.

[3] Michael Gordon, “Hezbollah trains Iraqis in Iran,” New York Times, May 5, 2008.

[4] Jim Garamone, “Iran Arming, Training, Directing Terror Groups in Iraq, U.S. Official Says,” American Forces Press Service, July 2, 2007

[5] Kimberly Kagan, “Iran’s Proxy War against the United States and the Iraqi Government,” Institute for the Study of War, May 2006 – August 2007.

[6] Marisa Cochrane, “Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Khazali Special Groups Network,” Backgrounder #38, Institute for the Study of War, January 13, 2008.

[7] Marisa Cochrane, “Special Groups Regenerate,” Iraq Report #11, Institute for the Study of War, September 2, 2008.

[8] Mona Mahmood, Maggie O’Kane, Guy Grandjean, “Revealed: hand of Iran behind Britons’ Baghdad kidnapping,” The Guardian, December 30, 2009.

[9] Jim Garamone, “Iran Arming, Training, Directing Terror Groups in Iraq, U.S. Official Says,” American Forces Press Service, July 2, 2007.

[10] Alissa Rubin and Michael Gordon, “U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.’s” The New York Times, June 8, 2009.

[11] “Militant linked to British kidnappings handed to Iraq,” Agence France Presse, June 9, 2009; Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid, “Iraqi accused in 5 US soldier deaths freed,” Associated Press, June 9, 2009.

[12] Yusif Salman, “Leading Figure in the Al-Sadr Trend to Al-Mashriq: Al-Sadr Met Asaib Ahl al-Haq Leader in Qom,” Al-Mashriq, January 18, 2010, translated by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, January 22, 2010; Martin Chulov, “Qais al-Khazali: from kidnapper and prisoner to potential leader,” The Guardian, December 31, 2009.

[13] Gregg Carlstrom, “US hands over last detainee in Iraq,” Al-Jazeera, December 18, 2011.

[14] Al-Shiraa, “Delegation to Iraq to discuss release of Hezbollah member detained by U.S. Forces,” Al-Shiraa, December 23, 2011.

[15] Charlie Savage, “Prisoner in Iraq Tied to Hezbollah Faces U.S. Military Charges,” The New York Times, February 23, 2012.

[16] Robert Burns, “Accused Terrorist in Iraq Facing US Charges,” Associated Press, February 24, 2012.

[17] Charlie Savage, “Prisoner in Iraq Tied to Hezbollah Faces U.S. Military Charges,” The New York Times, February 23, 2012.

[18] “Iraq court rules to release Hezbollah prisoner,” Associated Press, May 7, 2012; Mitchell Prothero, “US fury after Baghdad court frees al-Sadr ally linked to killing spree,” The Guardian, May 12, 2012; Reidar Visser, “Parliament Approves the Second Maliki Government,” Historiae.org, December 21, 2010.

[19] Jack Healy and Charlie Savage, “Iraqi Court Acts to Free Suspect in Deadly Raid on G.I.’s,” New York Times, May 7, 2012; Joel Wing, “Hezbollah Commander About To Be Released From Iraqi Prison,” Musings on Iraq, May 14, 2012.

[20] Josh Rogin, “Administration struggling to prevent release of Hezbollah commander in Iraq,” The Cable, May 10, 2012.


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