Bomb that killed scores of U.S. troops reap­pears in Iraq

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Ka­reem Fahim and Liz Sly WASH­ING­TON POST

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.

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