Bomb that killed scores of U.S. troops reappears in Iraq
IRBIL, Iraq – A roadside bomb that killed an American soldier in Iraq earlier this month was of a particularly lethal design not seen in six years, and its reappearance on the battlefield suggests that U.S. troops could again be facing a threat that bedeviled them at the height of the insurgency here, U.S. military officials said.
The device was of a variety known as an explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, according to initial investigations, a weapon notorious for its destructive and deadly impact on armored vehicles and the service members inside them, two U.S. military officials said.
EFPs were among the most lethal weapons faced by U.S. forces before a troop withdrawal in 2011. The devices were considered a hallmark of the Iranian-backed Shiite militias battling the U.S. occupation after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But the technology used to make them proliferated, and cruder versions were also deployed by Sunni militants.
U.S. military officials were quick to stress that they had not determined who was responsible for the attack. The Islamic State militant group – the only threat to U.S. and Iraqi troops over the past three years – was not known to have previously used the weapons, the officials said, though they may have acquired the expertise to make them. The officials talked about the investigation in response to questions about the circumstances of the bombing.
The Islamic State did not make any public claim of responsibility after the attack, on Oct. 1, which killed Spec. Alexander W. Missildine and wounded another soldier, according to the U.S. military. At the time it was struck, Missildine’s vehicle was traveling south on a major road in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad, according to Col. Charles D. Constanza, a deputy commander for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
Col. Ryan Dillon, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said “investigations are continuing into the type and quality of the bomb to better determine where it originated. To say whether or not ISIS did it or not – we have not determined that yet. We are not ruling anything out,” he said.
The question of the type of bomb used and its origin is sensitive because it comes amid an intensifying drive within the Trump administration to counter the expansion of Iranian influence in the region in recent years.
It also coincides with threats from some of the Iranian-backed Shiite militias who have fought in uneasy alliance with the United States against the Islamic State but are making it clear that they want U.S. troops to leave.