Israelis trained Kurdish
troops in Iraq-BBC report
LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters)
- Former Israeli commandos secretly trained
Kurdish soldiers in northern Iraq to protect a
new international airport and in
counter-terrorism operations, the BBC television
reported on Tuesday.
Former Israeli special forces soldiers entered
Iraq from Turkey in 2004 to train two groups of
Kurdish troops, one of the former Israeli
trainers told the BBC's "Newsnight" programme.
A spokesman for the Kurdistan regional
government dismissed the Israeli ex-soldier's
allegations, saying they were not new.
The former trainer, whose name was not
disclosed, said Israeli soldiers trained Kurds
to act as a security force for the new airport
in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.
They also trained more than 100 Kurdish "Pesh
Merga" fighters for "special assignments" that
included how to use rifles and how to shoot
militants in a crowd, he said.
The former soldier said he believed Kurdish
officials knew the trainers were Israelis
although the troops did not.
"My part of the contract was to train the
Kurdish security people for a big airport
project and for training, as well as the
Peshmerga, and the actual soldiers, the army,"
the former Israeli soldier told "Newsnight".
"You know, day by day it's a bit tense because
you know where you are and you know who you are.
And there's always a chance that you'll get
revealed," he added.
Iraqi newspapers have reported that Israeli
soldiers have trained Kurdish troops, but the
Kurdish authorities deny allowing any Israelis
The Kurds' political enemies have long accused
them of an alliance with Israel while Israel's
critics suspect it wants to use the Kurdish
region as a strategic base to get closer to its
Iraqi Kurdistan lies between Iran to the east
and Turkey to the north-west. Both countries
have significant Kurdish minorities and are
worried about the prospecto f a Kurdish state
emerging in northern Iraq.
"Newsnight" also reported that an Israeli
security firm called Interop and two
Swiss-registered subsidiaries, Kudo and Colosium,
were among the main contractors at Irbil
airport, providing security fencing and
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev
told "Newsnight" that Israel had not authorised
any firms to do defence work in Iraq. Companies
would be prosecuted if police found they had
broken export laws, he said.
Khaled Salih, a spokesman for the Kurdistan
Regional Government, dismissed the former
Israeli soldier's claims.
"These are not new allegations for us. Back
in the Sixties and Seventies we were called 'the
second Israel' in the region and we were
supposed to be eliminated by Islamist
nationalist and now Islamist groups," he told "Newsnight".
The former Israeli soldier said he trained Kurds
in "anti-terror lessons...how to shoot first,
how to identify a terrorist in a crowd. That's
clearly special assignments.