Pressure-triggered bombs worry U.S. forces (IRAQ)


A bomb was detonated by a pressure switch that activates when a vehicle drives over, injuring four soldiers on Oct. 14. The incident means that U.S. forces here, who have improved their ability to spot remotely triggered bombs, now have a different type of weapon to worry about.


(24.10.2005)

Just before midnight on the eve of Iraq's vote on a draft constitution, an armored Humvee carrying four soldiers from the Army's 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment drove over a wire on a road south of Baqouba, triggering a deafening explosion.

Shrapnel pierced the Humvee's armor, shredding calves, toes and legs. Two soldiers were hurt badly enough to be airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The other two were transported to a military hospital in nearby Balad. The military says all of them will survive.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about the Oct. 14 incident. U.S. troops in Iraq hit roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), on a daily basis.

But the technique used to trigger many of the bombs has U.S. officers here concerned. Until recently, most roadside explosives in this area were triggered remotely by an insurgent using a cellphone, doorbell or other wireless device.

This bomb was detonated by a pressure switch that activates when a vehicle drives over it. The incident means that U.S. forces here, who have improved their ability to spot remotely triggered bombs, now have a different type of weapon to worry about.

"The new weapon out there is the pressure-detonated IED," Col. Steven Salazar, commander of the Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, warned company commanders during a recent battle briefing. "It's a very dangerous tactic."

The bomb that caused the Oct. 14 blast was the 14th pressure- switch device found or detonated in the area in the past four weeks.

For insurgents, the advantage to a pressure switch is that no one has to risk capture by remaining nearby to trigger the explosion. The downside for insurgents is that they can't control when such bombs go off: Any vehicle heavy enough can set off the blast, including civilian cars and trucks.

Pressure-switch bombs aren't entirely new. They have been used, on and off, by insurgents as far back as fall 2003, says Maj. Dean Wollan, intelligence officer of the 3rd Brigade. They still are commonly found in Ramadi, Fallujah and Baghdad.

In the Baqouba area north of Baghdad, insurgents had abandoned the use of pressure-triggered bombs this spring after U.S. and Iraqi forces discovered eight of the devices before they could be detonated. The bombs were poorly assembled, Wollan said.

The re-emergence of pressure-activated bombs has come as insurgents have acquired more expertise in building and placing them. "These guys either received additional training, or new personnel has moved in to show them how to do it correctly," Wollan said.

He said insurgent groups are swapping information on DVDs and on paper, or by assigning explosives experts to train with bombmakers in other cells and groups.

The main insurgent network in the Baqouba area is also the one with the most sophisticated bomb builders: the Islamic extremist group known as the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, made up of Iraqi Kurds, Sunnis and foreign jihadists.

Wollan said other organizations operating here include: al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group commanded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a group of Saddam loyalists; and Green Line Brigade, a group of hardcore religious Sunni Arabs. They differ in ideologies but have shared information, men and tactics, captured prisoners have told U.S. forces.

As U.S. troops have learned to combat roadside bombs, insurgents' tactics have improved, too. One example is their increasing use of "shaped charges" to concentrate the force of a blast and better penetrate armored vehicles.

"There's a tendency to think of the insurgency as a bunch of guys running around the desert with Kalashnikovs," Wollan said. "These are a group of dedicated professionals trying to improve their craft."

Von: 24 October 2005 (USA Today) by Rick Jervis

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