U.S. commanders in Iraq are concerned that Shiite insurgents are using
a new type of high-powered homemade weapon that uses rockets made in
Iran and elsewhere. In the most recent attack, on Tuesday in
northeastern Baghdad, an Iraqi soldier and a U.S. soldier were
wounded. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
military calls the weapons Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munitions
(IRAM). They are propane gas tanks loaded with explosives and lashed
to rockets. Several IRAMs can be packed in the back of an open truck,
and launched by remote control.
One report refers to them as
flying roadside bombs, a reference to another relatively crude but
highly effective insurgent weapon that has been the leading cause of
death among U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq.
"It does concern
us," said Major General Michael Oates. "It is a home-made,
multiple-launch rocket system. And it is very dangerous."
General Michael Oates is commander of U.S. and coalition forces in
central Iraq, south of Baghdad. He is concerned even though he has not
seen any IRAMs in his area. The new weapons have so far only been
found in Baghdad, where the U.S. military says they have been used by
Shiite militias affiliated with Iran, and often powered by Iranian-made
But Major General Oates says he does not know for
sure whether Iran is providing the material, technology or training for
"I'm not prepared to state that it's Iranian-made
or Iranian-influenced," he added. "I don't have any information that
would lead me to believe that. It is an improvised explosive,
therefore it's not manufactured the way it is employed. So, somebody
is having to train someone to modify this weapon system. Where that
training is coming from, I just don't know the specifics on right now."
officials have accused Iranian agents of providing equipment and
training for high-powered roadside bombs that have killed several U.S.
troops. The Iranian government has denied the charge, even though
Iranian operatives have been captured inside Iraq allegedly working on
The Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munitions have been
launched into several small American bases, killing three U.S. troops
and wounding 15. But the most deadly IRAM incident involved an aborted
attack in early June, in which several of the bombs exploded
prematurely, killing 16 Iraqi civilians and two attackers.
VOA interview, the spokesman for coalition forces in Baghdad,
Lieutenant Colonel Steve Stover, says the IRAMs first appeared late
last year, and there have been fewer than 10 such attacks. He says
that's far fewer than attacks by roadside bombs, car bombs, snipers,
mortars or conventional rockets.
"The IRAM itself, much like
those other weapons systems, is something that we're trying to stay one
step ahead of," he explained. "So, what we're trying to do is find the
networks that are making these things. There is an award for it, that
leads to the cell leaders or the people who are making the devices."
Colonel Stover says the military is also taking steps to defend against
the new weapons, but he would not provide details.
He says the
rocket-propelled bombs are difficult to hide, because they are launched
on rails that often stick out the back of the trucks where they are
mounted. He says they are shot high into the air, but only travel a
"It's a home-made system," he noted. "It's
something that somebody was taught to make. I mean, I'm not saying
it's a very extremely crude device, but if you take a rail, you put
that in the back of a truck, you put a rocket on it and you light a
fuse. It depends on how high you put the rail, that's how high it's
going to go."
Lieutenant Colonel Stover says while many of the
rockets used in IRAMs were made in Iran, the military has found some
that were made in Russia and China.