News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqPolice chief says device may have been made in...

Police chief says device may have been made in Iran

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The Times: The commander of Basra’s police force said yesterday that the huge bomb that killed the four British soldiers on Thursday was similar to Iranian-made devices used to deadly effect in other parts of Iraq. The Times

James Hider in Baghdad

The commander of Basra’s police force said yesterday that the huge bomb that killed the four British soldiers on Thursday was similar to Iranian-made devices used to deadly effect in other parts of Iraq.

British army officials said their explosives experts had completed their assessment of the device that destroyed the 24-tonne Warrior armoured personnel carrier, but refused either to confirm or deny the commander’s claim.

Major-General Mohammed al-Moussawi said that such a device had not been used in southern Iraq before. But he said two similar bombs were found in Basra yesterday: one on the road to the British base at Basra Palace and the other in Hayaniyah, where the Warrior was blown up.

Suspicion has fallen on a rogue faction of the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia nominally under command of the virulently anti-Western cleric Hojetoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr. The Mahdi Army holds sway in Hayaniyah.

Officials believe the antiBritish operations to be the work of a Mahdi faction that has drifted away from the main nationalist Shia force and come under Iran’s influence. While Iranian influence on the militia as a whole is believed to be limited, the small groups affiliated to Tehran receive disproportionate amounts of funding and weaponry from their eastern neighbour.

Hojetoleslam al-Sadr himself is believed to be in Iran, keeping a low profile during a US security crackdown on Baghdad, where his sprawling militia is accused of running death squads that have killed hundreds of Sunnis.

But British officials were sceptical that the police commander — a respected officer who is not affiliated to any of the main parties — could have drawn so firm a conclusion so quickly.

“I’d be surprised if we were able to say where the components came from. Unless you see ‘Made in Iran’ or see them carrying it across the border it is very difficult to say,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Stratford-Wright.

He said that details of the device would not be released, to avoid giving anti-coalition forces “battle damage assessment”.

— At least 27 people died yesterday when a suicide-bomber drove a lorry packed with chlorine gas and TNT into a police checkpoint in Ramadi. The improvised chemical weapon was the ninth such device used in Iraq since January.

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