They are usually no bigger than a man’s fist and attached to a magnet or a strip of gummy adhesive — thus the name “obwah lasica” in Arabic, or “sticky bomb.”
Light, portable and easy to lay, sticky bombs are tucked quickly under the bumper of a car or into a chink in a blast wall. Since they are detonated remotely, they rarely harm the person who lays them. And as security in Baghdad has improved, the small and furtive bomb — though less lethal than entire cars or even thick suicide belts packed with explosive — is fast becoming the device of choice for a range of insurgent groups.
They are also contributing, in the midst of an uptick in violence, to a growing feeling of unease in the capital.
“You take a bit of C4 or some other type of compound,” said Lt. Col. Steven Stover, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad. “You can go into a hardware store, take the explosive and combine it with an accelerant, put some glass or marble or bits of metal in front of it and you’ve basically got a homemade Claymore,” a common anti-personnel mine.
Sticky bombs are not an Iraqi innovation. “Limpet mines” were attached to the sides of ships during World War II, and magnetic booby traps were used during the conflict in Northern Ireland. Magnetic IEDs, or improvised explosive device, a homemade bomb, were first used in Iraq in late 2004 or early in 2005, according to the American military.
But sticky bombs have become steadily more common since the start of this year, from an average of two explosions a week caused by them this spring, to about five per week more recently, Stover said.
According to figures compiled by Iraq’s Interior Ministry, sticky bombs killed three people and wounded 18 in Baghdad alone during the month of July. In October, nine people were killed and 46 more were injured by sticky bombs.
Casualty rates caused by sticky bombs are still relatively low. But recent raids on insurgent groups have uncovered caches of the bombs, even “sticky bomb factories,” Stover said.