U.S. Raids Target Iranian-Made Weapons Allegedly Smuggled Into Iraq

Friday, May 4th 2007, 7:00 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD (AP) _ U.S.-led forces raided Baghdad's main Shiite district on Friday and detained 16 alleged militants on suspicion of smuggling a powerful weapon from Iran into Iraq that can pierce armored vehicles, the military said.

The military also announced the discovery in recent months of several weapons caches south of Baghdad that included four of the Iranian-made weapons, known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFP.

In other developments, the U.S. military identified two more top al-Qaida aides killed during an operation earlier this week targeting a senior propagandist for the terror network, and a U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad on Friday.

Roadside bombs have long been the No. 1 killer of U.S. and Iraqi forces in Iraq, but the use of EFPs is rising, and they can be far more lethal.

The military has managed to reduce casualties from roadside bombings by equipping U.S. armored carriers with a blast-repellent hull, but the ERP hurls a fist-sized lump of molten copper that can pierce armored carriers.

Coalition forces detained 16 suspected militants during the raids in Sadr City, the Baghdad slum that is home to Shiite militias allied with radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The military said the raids targeted a cell known for facilitating the transport of weapons and EFPs from Iran to Iraq and for bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training.

Intelligence reports also indicate the cell has ties to a kidnapping network that carries out attacks within Iraq, the statement said.

The military said U.S. forces in the last six months have found and destroyed four caches of weapons around Mahmoudiya, a mostly Shiite enclave surrounded by Sunni-dominated areas about 20 miles south of Baghdad. Sectarian violence and attacks by militias and insurgents on American and Iraqi forces are common in the area.

The caches included four EFPs, components to make EFPs, seven Iranian-style rockets and an Iranian-style mortar, a statement said. It said such weapons often are smuggled into Baghdad for use there.

EFPs were first reported used in the Iraq war in 2005 against British forces in the south, but now are used primarily in Baghdad. Iranian officials have denied importing weapons or militants into neighboring Iraq.

But The Washington Post reported Friday that attacks in Iraq involving Iranian-made EFPs hit a record high last month, despite U.S. efforts to crack down on networks supplying the armor-piercing weapons.

Quoting Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who oversees day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq, the paper said the number of attacks with the projectiles rose to 65 in April, most of them in predominantly Shiite eastern Baghdad. Officials said the projectiles are used almost exclusively by Shiite fighters against U.S. military targets.

Before April, the month with the greatest number of projectile attacks was December 2006, with 62, the Post said. It said the use of projectile weapons has risen over time as other types of bombs have become less effective against added U.S. armor.

Overall attacks using roadside bombs doubled in Iraq from 2006 to 2007 and number about 1,200 a month, the Post said. They cause roughly 70 percent of the casualties suffered by U.S. troops, the paper said.

On Friday, the U.S. military identified two more top al-Qaida aides killed during an operation earlier this week targeting a senior spokesman for the terror network.

On Thursday, the military announced that U.S.-led forces killed al-Qaida propagandist Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri early Tuesday west of Taji, near a U.S. air base 12 miles north of Baghdad. Al-Jubouri was one of five militants killed in the operation, but he was not identified until Wednesday after DNA testing.

The military on Friday identified two of the other slain militants as al-Jubouri's spiritual guide Sabah Hilal al-Shihawi, also known as Sabah al-Alwani and Abu Nuri; and a foreign fighter Abu Ammar al-Masri, who is said was helping with insurgent activity and infrastructure support for al-Qaida.

Both militants had been positively identified by associates at the site, and photos also had been used to identify al-Shihawi, according to the statement.

Military spokesman U.S. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Thursday that al-Jubouri was identified with photos and DNA testing but only one body had been removed from the battlefield.

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, another U.S. military spokesman, said Friday that Abu Ammar al-Masri is unrelated to al-Qaida boss Abu Ayyub al-Masri.