BAGHDAD — The White House has asked Iraq to hand over a Hezbollah commander who was accused of masterminding a 2007 attack that killed five American soldiers, a senior US official said Thursday.
Two Iraqi courts have declared Ali Mussa Daqduq not guilty in the attack. The case is a tricky aftermath of the long US military campaign in Iraq and has elements of both Iraqi and US internal politics.
Daqduq has been released from prison but is being held under house arrest in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone as Washington seeks to bring US charges against him. Daqduq, a Lebanese citizen, is considered a top threat to Americans in the Middle East and was detained for more than four years by the US military before it left Iraq in December.
Antony J. Blinken, the national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said the United States wants to keep Daqduq locked up for as long as is legally possible.
Blinken said the Obama administration will also file a request on behalf of the victims’ families for Iraq’s highest appeals court to review and correct its June 25 order to free Daqduq. But he said the United States asked to extradite Daqduq before the final court ruling declaring him not guilty.
‘‘The process has not concluded,’’ Blinken said Thursday.
He said the White House has consistently urged Baghdad to use any legal means to prosecute and detain Daqduq ‘‘for the crimes he committed on Iraqi soil, including any crimes against US service-members.’’
Ali al-Moussawi, media adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said he was unaware of any US request to extradite Daqduq.
The United States believes Daqduq plotted a brazen 2007 raid on a military camp in Karbala that killed five US soldiers. He is accused of working with Iranian agents to train Shi’ite militias to target the US military.
A debate between the Democratic White House and Republicans in Congress over whether high-risk terror suspects should be brought to the United States for trial stalled the case against Daqduq last year. He was handed over to Iraqi authorities as required when US troops left Iraq.
Since then, two Iraqi courts have cleared Daqduq of the terrorism and forgery charges that Iraq’s government lodged against him. Iraqi government officials acknowledge they have little, if any, legal basis for continuing to detain him.
US auditors estimate that US taxpayers have spent about $10 billion since 2003 to rebuild and strengthen Iraq’s justice system after decades of abuse under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. Releasing Daqduq now, however, would crimp White House efforts in the run-up to the US elections this fall to show that President Obama aggressively pursues terrorists.
‘‘The judiciary system said its final say: that he’s innocent and needs to be released,’’ said Daqduq’s attorney, Abdul-Mahdi al-Mitairi, a follower of the anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
On Thursday, two senior Iraqi officials said the government has decided it must abide by the court rulings and release Daqduq, and it is trying to find a way to do so without angering the White House.
Blinken would not say whether Daqduq would be tried in a federal civilian court or by a military commission if he is extradited.