Huge cache of Iranian weapons found in Diyala
U.S. officers said Monday they had discovered a factory for assembling sophisticated roadside bombs from Iranian-made components _ the first such facility uncovered in a religiously mixed province north of Baghdad.This is not the same find as the one last week where the EFPs were camouflaged as boulders. That find was near Hillah.
The officers, who displayed weapons for reporters at a U.S. base in the capital, said the find provides more evidence that the Iranians are providing weapons used to kill Americans. They include EFPs _ explosively formed projectiles _ that fire a slug of molten metal capable of penetrating armored vehicles and have been blamed for killing more than 170 U.S. and coalition soldiers since 2004.
Military officials said the cache _ buried in two freezers and a water container, with some of the rockets covered by tarps _ was the largest of its kind to be found north of Baghdad.
"This is a significant amount," said Capt. Clayton Combs, the commander of the company that found the cache in the volatile Diyala province. "Before we have found one or two EFPs at the most and those are usually at the site of deployment. This is the first cache ... that has actually been found as far as a production facility."
Among the parts found during a raid Saturday after a tip from an Iraqi informant were 120 mm mortars and 122 mm rockets that the military said were made in Iran. Markings indicated they were made after the U.S.-led invasion nearly four years ago, which would rule out that they were leftovers from the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war.
The cache also included artillery, anti-personnel mines, as well as more than 150 metal discs, detonation cords, electronic triggering mechanisms and C-4 plastic explosives _ all laid out in piles for a press conference at the main U.S. military base on the western edge of Baghdad. The military said some smaller munitions had been destroyed at the site.
"It's proof beyond a doubt that there's Iranian manufactured weapons being used by insurgents in Iraq," military spokesman Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle said in Baghdad. "But we can't say based on what we had and what we found who's involved in it."
Aberle said caches with components for making the weapons had been found elsewhere in Iraq but this was the first time one had been found in the Diyala area. The discovery comes amid concerns that militants have been streaming northward to escape the security crackdown in Baghdad.
He also said the discovery of an assembly factory cast doubt on previous assumptions that the deadly weapons were made elsewhere and imported to the area, some 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
"From this conceivably you could make 50 or more EFPs," he said. "All of our assumptions, at least in Diyala, have been that EFPs are made externally and brought into Diyala and this obviously refutes that hypothesis in that there's more and they're being made locally," he said.
The retreat toward Diyala is one that I predicted back when the surge was first announced. Early presurge operations in the area had discovered several bunkers and caches. I thing these finds are a secondary benefit of the surge and they also will make it more difficult for the enemy to comback after the surge is over.