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U.S. general: Iraqi militants trained in Iran

Story Highlights

• Maj. Gen. William Caldwell: Karbala attack planned at facility in Iran
• In January, insurgents dressed as Americans hit government compound
• Suspected leader of that attack killed last weekend, military says
• Intelligence reports say Iran's Revolutionary Guards trained attack leader
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BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. military commander said Friday that militants used a mock-up in Iran to help plan for a deadly operation in the Iraqi city of Karbala earlier this year.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, in an interview Friday on CNN's "Situation Room," answered questions about funding and support from the intelligence services in Iran to extremist elements in Iraq.

"They've gone so far in their overall training that they've helped the raid that occurred on the governor's position down in Karbala back in January," Caldwell said.

"We know they had built a mock facility in Iran and, in fact, it helped conduct the training and planning over there before they came back and executed that here in Iraq."

While Caldwell didn't provide details about the attack, he could have been referring to a notorious incident that occurred on January 20 in Karbala, a Shiite city south of Baghdad. (Watch the connection between Iran and the attack Video)

That's when a group of armed insurgents disguised as American soldiers, driving American vehicles and speaking English raided a government compound in Karbala, killed one U.S. soldier at the scene and captured four others who were later slain.

The U.S. military has been working on the case since.

Suspected attack leader killed

U.S. forces on May 19 killed a man identified as the ringleader of the attack -- Sheikh Azhar al-Dulaymi -- during an operation in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, according to an unclassified U.S. military presentation obtained by CNN.

Caldwell had said this week that the death occurred Friday.

According to the military's release, al-Dulaymi was armed and trying to hide on the roof of a building when coalition forces arrived to capture him. The release did not detail how he was wounded, but it said he died as coalition forces were taking him to a military medical facility.

The U.S. military has received intelligence reports that al-Dulaymi received training, "including ... how to conduct terrorist-style kidnappings," from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, the military release said.

And in March, two brothers, one of whom had links to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were detained by U.S. forces in Baghdad in connection with the killing of the soldiers.

Coalition forces in Basra and Hilla captured Qais Khazali, his brother Laith Khazali and several other members of the "Khazali network," the U.S. military said.

Caldwell said the "Iranian intelligence services, the Quds force, is in fact both training, equipping and funding" Shiite extremist groups and extremist elements of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia in Iraq and Iran.

He said the "secret cells" have been receiving a lot of money -- in the neighborhood of hundreds of thousands of dollars regularly -- to fund their efforts, which include kidnappings, assassinations and "some mass murders" in Iraq.

The U.S. military has said that the Quds force has been involved in the transport of a powerful type of bomb used in Iraq called explosively formed penetrators. However, there has not been proof that the Iranian leadership officially sanctions the transport of the explosives.

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In the January 20 Karbala attack, disguised insurgents made their way through checkpoints to get inside a government compound.

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