BAGHDAD — Foreign fighters have been slipping back into Iraq in larger numbers recently and may have been behind some of the most devastating attacks this year, reviving a threat the US military believed had been mostly eradicated, intelligence officials said.
It is impossible to verify the number of foreign insurgents entering the country. But one Middle Eastern intelligence official estimated recently that 250 came in October.
US officials say the figure is far lower but have acknowledged an increase since August.
At the same time, Iraqi officials said there has been a surge in financial aid to Al Qaeda’s front group in Iraq as the US military prepares to leave by the end of 2011.
They said it reflects fears by Arab states over the growing influence of Iran’s Shi’ite-led government over Iraq and its Shi’ite-dominated government.
Yesterday, security official Major General Qassim al-Moussawi said Iraqi forces are searching for six foreign fighters who are among Iraq’s most wanted terrorists.
The six are suspected of involvement in the Oct. 31 siege of a Christian church that left 68 people dead and drew international outrage, Moussawi said. They are also suspected in two summertime attacks on an Iraqi Army headquarters in Baghdad that killed a total of 73 people.
“All who committed these attacks are [non-Iraqi] Arabs,’’ he said. “This indicates the failure of Al Qaeda leaders to recruit Iraqis to carry out suicide attacks.’’
Moussawi said five of the six suspects are hiding in two Sunni-dominated provinces bordering Syria, and one has fled to Syria.