- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are being assigned to Iraq to help U.S. and coalition forces stop a deadly and ongoing campaign of bombing attacks by insurgents.

An agreement signed March 5 by ATF Director Carl J. Truscott and Army Brig. Gen. John Defreitas and made public yesterday said the agents will bring the bureau’s expertise in explosives investigations to bear in the insurgency now pitted against coalition forces and Iraqi citizens.

Earlier this week, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted that insurgent violence — dominated by Saddam Hussein loyalists and foreign fighters — would surge in the weeks ahead as a national assembly is seated and the transitional government moves forward.

Gen. Myers also said the insurgency increasingly is being backed by organized crime and criminals-for-hire as coalition forces capture or kill foreign extremists and Saddam supporters.

ATF was the agency that discovered the critical piece of evidence that led to convictions in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and was instrumental in the investigation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Sheree L. Mixell, ATF spokeswoman, said the agreement allows the agents to serve within the Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC) in Iraq with military and other law-enforcement agencies from the United States and Britain. CEXC provides technical and operational analysis of the improvised bombs the insurgents have used against coalition forces, and develops measures to counter the bombing campaign.

ATF special agents also certified as explosives specialists have been deployed in Iraq since 2003. They are training the Iraqi Police Service, assisting a multiagency task force preparing the war crimes tribunals against leaders of the ousted Saddam regime and are serving as handlers of explosives-detection canine teams.

“This agreement formalizes our assistance and gives ATF the opportunity to help the multinational forces deal with a threat that we know a great deal about,” Mr. Truscott said.

Under the agreement, ATF agents will conduct search operations of suspected bomb factories; investigate significant explosives incidents; carry out first-line examinations of new devices and support their packaging and dispatch to laboratories in the United States and Britain for technical evaluation, as well as provide reports on incidents involving explosive devices.

Ms. Mixell said the agents, serving under the operational control of the coalition forces, also will provide advice on explosives disposal and combat tactics for improvised bombs, assist in interviewing suspected bomb makers, provide information to military and intelligence components, and participate in technical analysis.

She said the agents will not conduct operations to render explosives safe or participate in raid operations.

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