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Roadside bomb attacks in Iraq reach an all-time high

London Independent | August 9, 2007
Kim Sengupta

Roadside bomb attacks on American troops in Iraq reached an all-time high last month, accounting for more than one third of all combat deaths.

The increase in the number of casualties caused by the explosive devices comes at the height of the "surge' of US forces which, the Pentagon claims, is broadly a success. Washington and London have blamed Iran for supplying the devices which have been used with lethal effect against American and British troops.

Although coalition forces have claimed a number of successes in discovering caches of the bombs, the number of attacks in July, stated as 99, shows the insurgency has had no problem in obtaining supplies.

In recent weeks, US forces have focused operations on Sunni militants and, in particular, al-Qa'ida.

One of the initial aims of the "surge" was to combat Shia militias which, often in collusion with government forces, have been running death squads. However, the alleged use of the roadside devices shows the threat from the Shias, with many of the groups sponsored by Tehran, has not diminished despite numerous American missions.

Lieutenant General Raymond Odiarno, the deputy US commander in Iraq, said there had been an "all-time high" in July of attacks using the devices and that Shia militants were responsible for 73 per cent of the attacks that killed or wounded American troops in Baghdad.

US and British intelligence say the report of Iranian involvement is based on a technical analysis of exploded and captured devices, interdiction near the border and interrogation of Shia prisoners.

Critics say there is no proof linking the Iranian government to the devices and the allegations are being made to pile pressure on Tehran and hide the shortcomings of the US and British Iraq policy.

Lt-Gen Odiarno insisted: "I think it is because the Iranians are surging support to the special groups. I think they want to influence the decision potentially coming up in September".

The US commander, General David Petraeus, is due to give his report on the "surge" at the middle of September and the future direction of American policy in Iraq is due to be based on what that says.

* American-led forces stormed into the Shia militia stronghold of Sadr City yesterday, killing 32 suspected militants and detaining 12 others during fierce small-arms fighting and an air strike that was targeting alleged smuggling networks from Iran.

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