Tough to spot, and easy to emplace, small, magnetic bombs are quickly becoming the militant tool of choice in Iraq.
The so-called "sticky" improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, can be quickly tucked under a car bumper, and held in place by magnets. Which means any vehicle in Iraq can now be turned into a car bomb, or an assassination tool. The driver often has no idea of the deadly modifications to his vehicle. Which makes stopping the bombs that much tougher.
"When you are looking for a sticky bomb, you do not know where to look," an Iraqi checkpoint guard for the private security company Sandi Group recently told Iraqslogger.
He explained that a big part of checkpoint security is to keep a keen eye out for suspicious behavior exhibited by drivers, and to become familiar with the drivers who routinely pass through. "Now," he said, "if there is a sticky bomb attached to the car, and the driver does not know they have it, you can not have a good idea if this is a dangerous car."
For years, the trend in Iraq was for bombs to get bigger and bigger -- like this cement-mixer-turned-IED I saw in 2007. But now, militants are looking for stealth, not raw killing power. So they've turned to a weapon that's decades-old.
"'Limpet mines' were attached to the sides of ships during World War II, and magnetic booby traps were used during the conflict in Northern Ireland," the New York Times explains. "Magnetic IEDs... were first used in Iraq in late 2004 or early in 2005, according to the American military. But sticky bombs have become steadily more common since the start of this year, from an average of two explosions a week caused by them this spring, to about five per week more recently."
"You take a bit of C4 or some other type of compound," Lt. Col. Steven Stover tells the paper. "You can go into a hardware store, take the explosive and combine it with an accelerant, put some glass or marble or bits of metal in front of it and you’ve basically got a homemade Claymore," a common antipersonnel mine.
The sticky bombs have also become assassination weapons. "The bombs have been used against Iraqi government officials, particularly those who work in the army and police," the Washington Post observes. "Local leaders, judges, journalists and members of U.S.-backed Sunni armed groups have also been attacked."
Before heading to work Tuesday morning, Ali Jabar Aduan got down on one knee to check the chassis of his car for explosives. Later that day, a sticky IED -- or improvised explosive device -- turned the government-owned Kia sport sedan he drives into a ball of charred metal.
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