June 15, 2007

The Trade Secrets of an Iraq Insurgency Bomb Technician

Iraq's Sunni insurgents are escalating the destructive reach of roadside bombs despite a massive U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown. To find out how the insurgency has managed to push back, Time's Baghdad bureau chief Bobby Ghosh talked to one of its key bomb builders, a man using the name Saif Abdallah.

The 28-year-old Mr. Abdallah says his devices have perhaps killed or maimed hundreds of Americans on behalf of the Sunni insurgency. He can improvise parts out of an astonishing range of scrap, from walkie-talkies to dilapidated washing machines. U.S. troops are facing a far more innovative and technically sophisticated enemy than they were four years ago, Mr. Ghosh reports. Insurgents have upgraded the power and sophistication of their radio-controlled bombs to the point where improvised explosive devices now account for about 80% of U.S. deaths, compared with 50% at the start of the year. A Sunni insurgent commander told Mr. Ghosh that once the insurgents learned of the U.S. troop increase, they prepared by getting as many bombs as possible to places they could be easily used.

U.S. commanders express skepticism about some of the insurgents' greatest IED boasts, for instance that they have planted devices in sewers that are capable of blowing up American tanks. But deep-buried bombs have had a devastating effect on other heavily armored vehicles.


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