By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 13, 2007 - A mortar that killed a coalition servicemember and injured 12 when it detonated earlier this week at a coalition operating base likely was manufactured in Iran, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq said yesterday. "Our explosive ordnance experts assessed (that) it is consistent with the rockets of Iranian origin we have seen used in other attacks," Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters during a briefing in Baghdad.
The general said experts matched distinctive markings on mortar fragments collected Sept. 11 from the impact site to unfired Iranian-made 240 mm rockets recovered in August. Such munitions are unique to Iranian manufacturing facilities, he added.
Bergner alleged that operatives of Jaysh al-Mahdi, the militant arm of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, launched the 240 mm mortar from western part of Baghdad's Rashid district. "(This) is a weapon these groups have received from Iranian groups in the past and recently used in other attacks against coalition forces," he said.
"We know that some of the elements of Jaysh al-Mahdi rely on Iranian sources of funding, training and weapons like this," he continued. "Unfortunately, (Iran's) support is continuing to undermine the security and stability of Iraq at an important moment when some here are trying to reduce the violence and improve security."
The mortar attack occurred in defiance of Sadr's pledge on Aug. 24 to suspend offensive operations against coalition forces and citizens. Though coalition forces have seen a reduction in attacks previously associated with Sadr's followers, some members, like the perpetrators of the mortar attack, are "disrespecting Sadr's commitment by continuing attacks," Bergner said.
The general added that U.S. forces embrace Sadr's dedication to isolating dissident Jaysh al-Mahdi members "who discredit his pledge of honor."
"The multinational force will continue to support the government of Iraq in welcoming the pledge by Moqtada al-Sadr to stop attacks," Bergner said. "And we will show restraint in dealing with his followers who uphold this commitment.
"However, Iraqi and coalition forces will not show the same restraint against criminals who continue to target civilians and security forces," he said.