U.S. claims Iran tie to Iraq bombs

The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran, The New York Times has reported on its website.

Citing unnamed civilian and military officials, the newspaper said the conclusion reflects broad agreement among US intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.

A new US National Intelligence Estimate claims that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq, the report said.

The focus of American concern is known as an “explosively formed penetrator,” a particularly deadly type of roadside bomb being used by Shiite groups in attacks on US troops in Iraq, the paper said.

Attacks using the device have doubled in the past year, and have prompted increasing concern among military officers, according to The Times.

In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, though less than a quarter of the total, the report pointed out, citing military officials.

Because the weapon can be fired from roadsides and is favored by Shiite militias, it has become a serious threat in Baghdad, the report said.

Only a small fraction of the roadside bombs used in Iraq are explosively formed penetrators.

But the device produces more casualties per attack than other types of roadside bombs, the paper noted.

Any assertion of an Iranian contribution to attacks on Americans in Iraq is both politically and diplomatically volatile, The Times said.

The officials said they were willing to discuss the issue to respond to what they described as an increasingly worrisome threat to US forces in Iraq, and were not trying to lay the basis for an American attack on Iran, the report pointed out.

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