U.S. loses first Abrams-class tank since Iraq conflict began

Thursday, October 30, 2003

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 mobility.

Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have procured and deployed the M1A1 tanks. Egypt plans to procure and assemble an enhanced version of the Abrams.

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.

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