Iraq bombers' tactics evolve, military says

Six U.S. soldiers killed as sophistication grows

March 15, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgent bombmakers, whose roadside explosives claimed the lives of six more American soldiers this weekend, have adopted new and grimly devious tactics, military officers said yesterday.

The tactics include setting multiple charges along convoy routes, disguising bombs inside animal carcasses and planting hollow artillery shells to draw troops into an ambush, they said.

One American soldier was killed early yesterday when his convoy west of Baghdad was hit by a roadside explosive. Three soldiers died late Saturday when their patrol in southeast Baghdad also fell victim to a homemade bomb.

Those deaths, announced by a military spokesman yesterday, followed a Saturday attack with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire in Tikrit that left two soldiers dead.

Explaining the spike in deaths this weekend from improvised explosive devices, military officers in Iraq described vast improvements in the lethality and effectiveness of those weapons over recent weeks.

Early in the insurgency, the handcrafted bombs tended to be bulky weapons, usually discarded artillery shells wired with a detonator and wired to a garage door opener or doorbell. Attackers buried or hid the homemade bombs along roadways between midnight and dawn.

As ground patrols and surveillance planes put pressure on this labor-intensive strategy of concealing traps, insurgents learned to create smaller bombs that could be planted quickly, military officers said.

"We call them `drop and pop,'" said an American officer in Iraq who briefs soldiers arriving in Iraq about the threat from the improvised explosive devices.

"We used to be able to look for a signature," the officer said. "Anybody out doing road work before the sun came up was probably digging a hole to plant a bomb. Now, they just roll by or walk alongside and dump them out."

Technological improvements have been noted by military headquarters here, as the improvised explosive devices are being detonated from greater distances.

Although more improvised explosives are being detected than are not, those bombs remain the leading cause of American casualties since the end of major combat operations on May 1.

Commanders are maintaining the pace of ground patrols while Air Force surveillance planes remain alert for explosives and those planting them.

Killed in Iraq

As of yesterday, 564 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations, and 2,792 U.S. service members have been wounded. Since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 426 U.S. soldiers have died.

Latest deaths

One soldier died yesterday at a combat hospital of injuries suffered in a morning blast in Baghdad.

Three soldiers from the 1st Armored Division were killed Saturday night by roadside bombs in Baghdad.

- Associated Press

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.