The United States has lost its first Abrams-class main battle tank since the war in Iraq began earlier this year.
Officials said the M1A1 tank was struck by a land mine or roadside bomb
on late Tuesday near Balad, located 70 kilometers north of Baghdad. Two U.S.
tank crew members were killed and a third was injured in what was believed
to have been an attack by Sunni insurgents.
This was the first Abrams-class tank destroyed by an improvised
explosive device [IED] since the end of major combat was declared on May 1.
During the Iraq war, several M1A1 and M1A2 tanks were destroyed or disabled
by rocket fire.
The Sunni insurgency has increased roadside bombings and suicide attacks
over the last month, Middle East Newsline reported. Insurgents linked to Al Qaida were also said to have
developed a missile, dubbed "Ramadan-1."
On Aug. 28, an M1A1 tank was disabled by what appeared to be a
rocket-propelled grenade. The U.S. Army has not determined the type of RPG
that penetrated the 68-ton tank, termed by its manufacturer, General
Dynamics Land System, as the most protected armored vehicle in the world.
The United States has used both the M1A1 and advanced M1A2 tanks in
Iraq. The military plans to reduce the number of tanks to ensure greater
Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have procured and deployed the M1A1
tanks. Egypt plans to procure and assemble an enhanced version of the
U.S. officials said the roadside bombings and mine attacks were believed
to have been conducted largely by Saddam loyalists with some help from Al
Qaida and related groups. They said one of the leading fugitives from the
Saddam regime, Izzet Ibrahim Al Douri, vice chairman of the former
Revolutionary Command Council and No. 6 on the list of 55 most-wanted
Iraqis, has been the liasion between Saddam loyalists and the Al
Qaida-related Ansar Al Islam. Officials said Al Douri was said to have
helped fund Ansar attacks on U.S. forces.
A statement by the military wing of the Islamic National Resistance said
the Ramadan-1 will be used against U.S. and allied forces in Iraq. The
statement did not detail the capabilities of the missile.