(CNSNews.com) – Seven years after the Obama administration controversially handed over to Iraqi custody a veteran Hezbollah terrorist accused of executing Americans – only to see him released a year later – Israel says the wanted man now heads a Syria-based terror cell near its northern border.
According to the Israeli Defense Forces Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese national, heads a terror cell comprised of Syrians, based on the Syrian side of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
Israel vowed to prevent Iran and its Hezbollah proxy from operating against Israel from Syrian soil. In New York, its ambassador warned U.N. Security Council members that Israel “will not ignore the conversion of Syria and Lebanon to a military front against us and will act with force against the aggression from Tehran.”
Daqduq, who once served as a bodyguard to Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah, was deployed to Iraq in 2005 as part of an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force operation to work with Iraqi Shi’ite militia fighting U.S. troops.
On January 20, 2007, terrorists attacked the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, killing an American soldier before abducting and subsequently murdering four more.
The U.S. military held Daqduq responsible for the attack. Two months later he was captured by British special forces in Basra, along with another terrorist working with the Qods Force, Iraqi national Qais Khazali.
According to the U.S. both men confirmed Qods Force involvement in the Karbala attack. Their arrest provided invaluable intelligence about the links between Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi militia in the deadly fight against U.S. forces in Iraq.
Daqduq was accused of training Iraqi militiamen in the use of rockets, mortars, and lethal IEDs known as “explosively formed penetrators,” boasting shaped charges designed to pierce armored vehicles.
U.S. commanders blamed the Qods Force and affiliated militias for the deaths of some 500 U.S. military personnel from 2005 onwards. Many were killed by “explosively formed penetrators.”
‘Return to the fight’
On the eve of the U.S. troop withdrawal in December 2011, the Obama administration handed Daqduq over to Iraqi custody, despite concerns by Republican lawmakers – some of whom had earlier called for him to be tried before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay – that he would never be punished for killing Americans.
Several senators warned 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.”
But on the day he was released, then-White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Iraqis had given assurances Daqduq would see justice.
“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 on Dec. 16, 2011.
The following November, despite U.S. appeals, the filing of murder and terrorism charges by a U.S. military commission, and an extradition request, the Iraqis released Daqduq, saying there was insufficient evidence to continue holding him.
The administration said it “strongly” objected to his release but would “pursue all legal means” to bring him to justice.
The U.S. Treasury Department then added Daqduq to a list of individuals subject to U.S. sanctions, describing him as “a dangerous Hezbollah operative responsible for planning and carrying out numerous acts of terrorism in Iraq.”
In the House and Senate, GOP lawmakers deplored the development, saying Daqduq’s release calls into question the Obama administration’s decision to turn Daqduq over to Iraqi authorities in the first place, and charging that he was “now free to rejoin the terrorists bent on the destruction of America and its allies.”
After Iraq freed him in 2012, Daqduq returned to Lebanon and, according to the IDF, he was deployed to Syria last summer to establish the network in a village on the Syrian side of the Golan, tasked with launching attacks against Israel.
The five soldiers who were killed in the Karbala attack were Capt. Brian Freeman, 31, of Temecula, Calif., 1st Lieutenant. Jacob Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Neb., Spc. Jonathan Chism, 22, of Gonzales, La., Pfc. Shawn Falter, 25, of Cortland, N.Y., and Pfc. Johnathon Millican, 20, of Trafford, Ala.
The Pentagon said terrorists wearing U.S.-style fatigues killed Millican in a hand grenade and gunfire ambush attack, and abducted the other four. Their bodies were later found in the attackers’ abandoned vehicles. They had been shot dead.
Khazali, the Iraqi suspect captured with Daqduq in 2007, has also yet to see justice. He was freed in January 2010, in exchange for the release of a British IT specialist who had been kidnapped at the Iraqi finance ministry two months after the Basra arrests.
He leads the pro-Iranian militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and a year ago warned on Twitter that U.S. troops now back in Iraq would face a “dark night” if they remain.