U.S. says explosives originated in Iran

February 27, 2007|By David Zucchino | David Zucchino,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- In the latest attempt to link the deadliest form of roadside bombs in Iraq to components manufactured in Iran, U.S. Army officers displayed plastic explosives yesterday that they said were made in Iran and recovered during a raid Saturday in violence-racked Diyala Province.

An Army explosives expert said the C-4 plastic explosives were used to make bombs that the military calls EFPs - explosively formed projectiles. The explosives were found alongside enough bomb-making materials to build 150 EFPs capable of penetrating heavily armored vehicles, according to the expert, Maj. Martin Weber.

Mortars and rockets found in the same cache also were manufactured in Iran, Weber said. The cache included 150 machine-milled copper plates that form a shaped lid on the projectile. When the weapons explode, those lids form balls of molten metal that can punch through the armor on vehicles.

The cache was believed to be the first EFP manufacturing site found inside Iraq, officers said. They had previously assumed that most EFPs were assembled outside the country and brought in nearly whole.

Officers said they did not know where the copper plates were made or by whom. They also said they could not prove who supplied the materials or who was building the EFPs.

The briefing was the third in two weeks in which U.S. military officials set forth evidence that they said showed Iran's hand in Iraq's violence.

In contrast with previous sessions, officers at yesterday's display were careful not to accuse the Iranian government of involvement. U.S. officials have had to backtrack from previous assertions of direct involvement by Iran's top government officials.

"I don't think there's any way for us to know if it's tied to any government," said Maj. Jeremy Siegrist, the executive officer for the unit that recovered the materials. "That's a stretch too far."

But by summoning reporters to the display and providing Weber as an on-site expert to assert that some items came from Iran, the military was clearly emphasizing the link to Iran.

Weber said cutting, stamping and milling the copper plates requires technical expertise, as do arming and triggering the EFPs. He said Iran has the necessary expertise. That country provides arms and technical support for Hezbollah, which has used similar explosive devices in southern Lebanon.

Referring to the C-4, rockets and mortars, Weber said, "you can establish the country of origin, and that is a fact."

Capt. Clayton Combs, the company commander whose 1st Cavalry unit recovered what officers called "an IED factory," using the military acronym for roadside bombs, said he found it "interesting" that explosives, rockets and mortars from Iran were among EFP-making materials. Asked to elaborate, Combs replied, "I'm not willing to go beyond that."

David Zucchino writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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