Bomb-makers relied on old technology for attack
Craig Skehan | October 10, 2007
INVESTIGATORS believe the weapon that killed the Australian soldier David Pearce was similar to one used against Soviet troops two decades ago rather than high-technology devices from Iran.
Iran has been accused of exporting to Iraq so-called "explosively formed projectile" devices, which blast molten metal into their target at incredibly high velocity. Some senior American and British commanders have claimed the Iranian-style armour-piercing bombs have begun to enter parts of Afghanistan, a view shared by senior Howard Government ministers.
The Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, suggested that the device which exploded under Trooper Pearce's light armoured vehicle could have come from Iran.
"There is no question that a variety of weapons including improvised explosive devices and explosively formed projectiles and other things are finding their way from Iran into both Iraq and Afghanistan," Dr Nelson said.
"At this stage of course we don't know precisely the sources of this particular IED. But … we will do the very best we can to get to the bottom on it."
The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, took a similar line: "What worries me … is that the particularly effective roadside bombs that can penetrate armoured vehicles may be coming from other countries, possibly even from Iran, though I can't prove that. And if that's the case then that does constitute a still more serious threat."
However, there is no hard evidence of such armour-piercing weapons being used so far in Afghanistan's Oruzgan province, where Australian forces are based.
The head of a special Australian counter-IED taskforce established last year, Brigadier Phil Winter, told the Herald yesterday that no evidence had been uncovered at the site where Trooper Pearce died to support the theory of an Iranian-style bomb.
"This is not an explosively formed projectile," Brigadier Winter said.
Reports from the scene indicated that the device was not deadly because it was sophisticated, but because it contained a large amount of explosive, possibly about seven kilograms.
"Subject to final investigation by field commanders, it would appear that the victim has driven over it and initiated the circuit," Brigadier Winter said. It was likely to have used a so-called "legacy munition" such as an anti-tank mine which could date back as far as the late 1970s and '80s when Soviet forces were fighting Islamic insurgents.
"That is a conventional munition used with an improvised detonation system," Brigadier Winter said. Any lessons learnt from the attack "will be be pushed pack into the theatre", he said.
"We are not expecting anything major, but we are always open-minded," he added. "We do have a pretty good handle on this type of device."
Captain Grant Barton, 29, who previously served in Iraq as an ammunition technical officer and visited some 30 attack sites, yesterday showed the Herald an electronic triggering device recovered from a bomb by Australian forces in Oruzgan province.
"It is ordinary people who suffer the most," Captain Barton said.