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U.S. forces in Iraq say found more Iran-made weapons

Reuters | February 26, 2007

The U.S. military showed on Monday what it said was further evidence of Iranian-made weapons being used by Iraqi militants fighting American troops, including components to build sophisticated roadside bombs.

The weapons, which also included mortar bombs and rockets, were found during a raid by U.S. forces and Iraqi police on Saturday near the volatile city of Baquba, north of Baghdad.

Washington, which accuses Iran of fanning violence in Iraq, is particularly concerned about so-called "explosively formed penetrators", a sophisticated Iranian-made roadside bomb the U.S. military says has killed 170 U.S. soldiers in Iraq since 2004. Tehran denies it fuels violence in Iraq.

Military officials who displayed some of the weapons for reporters at a U.S. base in Baghdad said the weaponry was clearly made in Iran. They said there was no way to know if the Iranian government was involved in supplying the weapons.

U.S. officials said this month the Quds Force, a unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, was supplying weapons to Shi'ite militia groups in Iraq.

"I don't think there is any way for us to know if it is tied to any government," Major Jeremy Siegrist said of the cache.

Siegrist declined to link the weapons to any particular militant group in Iraq. He said they were found near a village where gunmen of the Mehdi Army militia of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are strong.

"We know there are JAM members in the village," he said, using the English language acronym of the group.

Washington calls the Mehdi Army the biggest threat to security in Iraq, where thousands of extra U.S. forces have been deployed, mostly in Baghdad, to quell sectarian violence that is threatening to plunge the country into all-out civil war.

The United States has hardened its rhetoric over Iran's alleged role in the war in Iraq and tension has been growing between the two arch-foes over Tehran's nuclear plans.

President George W. Bush has said he has no intention of invading Iran. However, some war critics say the Bush administration's language on Iran echoes comments made leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The main justification given for that operation was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But the weapons were never found and Washington later blamed faulty intelligence.



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