Friday, June 15, 2007

Perspective: The enemy's new tools in Iraq

Saif Abdallah says his inventions have helped kill or maim scores, possibly hundreds, of Americans. For more than four years, he has been developing remote-control devices that Sunni insurgents use to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the roadside bombs that are the No. 1 killer of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The only time he ever felt a pang of regret was in the spring of 2006, when he heard that the Pentagon, in a bid to fight the growing IED menace, had roped in a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Abdallah, an electronics engineer by training, once dreamed of studying for a Ph.D. there. "I thought to myself, If my life had gone differently, who knows? I might have been on that team," he says, his eyes widening as he imagines that now impossible scenario. Then he shrugs. "God decided I should be on the other side."

Thin-voiced and thickly bespectacled, Abdallah, 28, fits every geek stereotype, right down to the acne and the flash drive on his key chain. His laboratory is a workbench in the bedroom of his Baghdad home. He says his tools are primitive — soldering irons, old printed circuit boards, discarded TV remotes and other bits of electronic detritus. But he has a talent for fashioning instruments of death from such dreck, turning an old toy walkie-talkie into a trigger for an explosion 100 yards away or programming a washing-machine timer to set off an IED two hours later.

Read the rest at Time