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Monday, August 21, 2006

Three Iranian factories 'mass-produce bombs to kill British in Iraq'

The Sunday Telegraph: Three factories in Iran are mass-producing the sophisticated roadside bombs used to kill British soldiers over the border in Iraq, it has been claimed.

Designed to penetrate heavy armour, the devices being manufactured in Iran involve the use of "explosively formed projectiles" or EFPs, also known as shaped charges, often triggered by infra-red beams.

The weapons can pierce the armour of British and American tanks and armoured personnel carriers and completely destroy armoured Land Rovers, which are used by the majority of British troops on operations in Iraq.

The Sunday Telegraph revealed in April that Iranian-made devices employing several EFPs, directed at different angles, were being used in Iraq.

And in June, this newspaper obtained the first picture of one of the Iraqi insurgent weapons - designed to fire an armour-piercing EFP - believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 17 British soldiers.

British Government scientists have already established that the mines are precision-made weapons thought to have been turned on a lathe by craftsmen trained in the manufacture of munitions.

Members of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee have released the details about the three bomb factories gathered by the exile group, the National Council for Resistance in Iran (NCRI).

Iranians working for the NCRI pinpointed the facilities at three industrial sections called Sattari, Sayad Shirazi and Shiroodi. The factories are in the Lavizan neighbourhood in northern Teheran which is controlled by the country's defence ministry. The Sattari Industry specialises in anti-tank mines and operates under the aegis of the IRGC's al-Quds or Jerusalem Force.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, a former spokesman for the NCRI who in 2002 revealed the existence of two Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak, said the devices were smuggled to Iraq via Iran's Shalamcheh border region.

"These sites are close to a military site, known as Lavizan 2, that is now being used for Iran's nuclear programme. It shows there is a high level of co-ordination by the Iranian regime, which wants to destabilise Iraq to make way for an Islamic Republic.

"This is not a ragtag workshop in some remote area. These sites are within an area that is one of the most sanitised parts of Teheran which is controlled by the Iranian Defence Ministry."

He added that NCRI sources reported the movement of EFP devices from Teheran into Iraq as recently as June and that supplies of the devices, which began last year, had been stepped up in recent months.

The infra-red triggering mechanism for roadside bombs was perfected by Hezbollah, under Iranian tutelage, against Israeli forces in the 1990s. Mr Jafarzadeh said that in recent weeks Iran had facilitated the movement of cash from Shia groups in Iraq to Hezbollah.

British soldiers guard a convoy after a roadside bomb attack
Brig James Dutton, then the commander of British forces in southern Iraq, revealed last November that EFPs had led to a marked increase in the lethality of attacks. He said the "technology certainly, and probably the equipment is coming through Iran".

He added: "They come in various grades, these EFP improvised explosive devices, from those that could be made in a relatively simple workshop to those that would require a reasonably sophisticated factory."

Last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former IRGC commander and the man believed by Western intelligence agencies to be in charge of Iranian operations in Iraq, was asked in an interview with CBS television why Iran would furnish roadside bombs to Iraqi insurgents.

He ignored the question, instead responding: "We are saddened that the people of Iraq are being killed. I believe that the rulers of the US have to change their mentality. I ask you, sir, what is the American army doing inside Iraq? Why are the Americans killing Iraqis on a daily basis?"

The factory disclosures come amid growing unease among soldiers in Iraq over what they believe is inadequate protection against terrorist booby traps.

There are fears that soldiers' lives are being put at risk by senior officers insisting that troops must conduct patrols in armoured Land Rovers even though they provide little or no protection from such insurgent devices.

Pressure continues to mount on the Ministry of Defence to introduce a new range of military vehicles that will protect troops from the terrorist bombs in Iraq.

The last two soldiers to be killed by the device were Lieut Tom Mildinhall, 27, and L/Cpl Paul Farrelly, 28, both members of the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards, who were killed on May 28 in a district north-west of Basra.

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