U.S.: Iran Training Iraqi Bombers

A boy passes a school wall sprayed with shrapnel after a rocket struck yesterday, in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, April 11, 2007. A Katushya rocket hit a basketball court at a boys school in eastern Baghdad on Tuesday afternoon, killing a 6-year-old boy and wounding 15 students and two teachers, police said. AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali

Iran has been training Iraqi fighters in the assembly of deadly roadside bombs known as EFPs, the U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.

EFPs, or explosively formed penetrators, hurl a molten, fist-sized lump of molten copper capable of piercing armored vehicles.

"We know that they are being in fact manufactured and smuggled into this country, and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said at a weekly briefing. "We know that training has gone on as recently as this past month from detainees' debriefs."

In January, U.S. officials said at least 170 U.S. soldiers had been killed by EFPs.

Caldwell also said the U.S. military had evidence that Iranian intelligence agents were active in Iraq in funding, training and arming Shiite militia fighters.

"We also know that training still is being conducted in Iran for insurgent elements from Iraq. We know that as recent as last week from debriefing personnel," he said.

"The do receive training on how to assemble and employ EFPs," Caldwell said, adding that fighters also were trained in how to carry out complex attacks that used explosives followed by assaults with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.

"There has been training on specialized weapons that are used here in Iraq. And then we do know they receive also training on general tactics in terms of how to take and employ and work what we call a more complex kind of attack where we see multiple types of engagements being used from an explosion to small arms fire to being done in multiple places," Caldwell said.

The general would not say specifically which arm of the Iranian government was doing the training but called the trainers "surrogates" of Iran's intelligence agency.

Caldwell opened the briefing by showing photographs of what he said were Iranian-made mortar rounds, RPG rounds and rockets that were found in Iraq.

In other developments:

  • The Defense Department is thinking about stretching the tour of duty for every active-duty U.S. Army unit in Iraq to 15 months instead of 12 as officials struggle to keep supplying enough troops for the conflict. Defense Secretary Robert Gates could make a decision on the proposal in the coming days, said a defense official on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been approved.

  • Iraqi Cabinet ministers allied to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr threatened Wednesday to quit the government to protest the prime minister's lack of support for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. Such a pullout by the very bloc that put Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in office could collapse his already perilously weak government. The threat comes two months into a U.S. effort to pacify Baghdad in order to give al-Maliki's government room to function.

  • A roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded three others in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, police said. Another roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing another policeman and wounding two others, police said. Six civilians also were hurt, said Brig. Abdul Karim Khalaf.

  • Al-Maliki said Wednesday that his government alone sets Iraq's foreign policy and it was based on maintaining good ties with its neighbors, an obvious attempt to cool an exchange of heated rhetoric between Turkish leaders and the top official in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region. The statement released by al-Maliki's office did not say specify any neighbor, but the comments coincided with bitter tit-for-tat remarks by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and Turkish officials over the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
    • Alfonso Serrano

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