updated 4/29/2004 9:36:27 AM ET 2004-04-29T13:36:27

Former members of Saddam Hussein’s security service are believed to be conducting a loosely coordinated campaign of bombings and attacks in Iraq that they prepared for since before the U.S. invasion last year, a defense official said Thursday, citing an intelligence report.

The report blames officers from an outfit known as M-14, or the Directorate of Special Operations and Antiterrorism, for some of the violence in post-war Iraq, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The organization was part of the Iraqi Mukhabarat, or intelligence service, before the war.

The intelligence finding was reported in Thursday’s New York Times.

When the fall of Saddam’s regime was imminent, the officers dispersed to cities around Iraq. They are working largely without coordination with one another, but are believed to be guiding some of the anti-U.S. forces in the restive city of Fallujah west of Baghdad, the official said.

The official cited two pieces of evidence: interviews with captured members of the organization, and commonalties between the designs of explosive devices found throughout Iraq. Those

“I can’t say this is the only group out there,” the official said. “These guys are the most sophisticated.”

The official said the report contains no estimates of the number of M-14 operatives still at large.

The report blames an April 14, 2003, attack that killed three U.S. soldiers on the group, the official said. It said the group probably is working with other anti-U.S. groups and individuals to conduct some of their attacks.

Other groups include fighters working for Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Sunni extremist connected to Osama bin Laden.

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