London has accused Iran of running training camps to teach militants how to carry out roadside bomb attacks on British troops in southern Iraq, according to newspaper reports on Wednesday.
The government believes Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has taught Shi’ite militia members from Iraq how to make armour-piercing devices, the Daily Mirror reported, citing an unnamed defence source.
“There is evidence that there are teaching camps in Iran, Lebanon and maybe Syria,” the source was quoted as saying. “It means up to 10 Iraqis at a time are being taught their trade before returning and teaching a further 50 similar minded people.”
Eight British soldiers have been killed by roadside bombs since May.
The source told the Daily Mirror British soldiers in Iraq have for the first time found two similar unexploded roadside bombs and are checking them for forensic evidence.
A separate report in the Independent, said officials were searching for an “Iranian signature”, while the Sun said the devices had advanced infra-red detonators.
A defence ministry spokesman in London said there would be no immediate comment on the reports.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said last week there was unproven evidence which linked Iran or its Lebanese Hizbollah allies to the sophisticated roadside bombs.
Blair said the accusations were not proven but worrying. He also said the bombs may have been an attempt by Iran to intimidate London over its tough stance in talks to limit Tehran’s use of nuclear technology.
Iran and Hizbollah denied any links to the bombs.
The spat has fuelled tensions between Britain and Iran at a time when London and Washington are seeking U.N. action over Tehran’s nuclear programme, which Washington says is a front for Iranian efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shi’ite Muslim, has denied that Shi’ite Iran was interfering in Iraq.