Eight British soldiers killed during ambushes in Iraq were the victims of a highly sophisticated bomb developed by British intelligence services and first used by the IRA.
The soldiers, who were targeted by insurgents as they travelled through the country, died after being attacked with bombs triggered by infra-red beams while on patrol.
The bombs were developed by the IRA in collusion with intelligence services more than a decade ago, the Independent on Sunday reported yesterday.
This contradicts the British Government's claims that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is helping Shia insurgents to make the devices.
The paper reported that the bombs and the firing devices used to kill the soldiers were initially created by the British security services as part of a counter-terrorism strategy in the early 1990s.
Security sources said the technology for the bombs, developed using technology from photographic flash units, was employed by the IRA 15 years ago after Irish terrorists were given advice by British agents.
"We are seeing technology in Iraq today that it took the IRA 20 years to develop," said a military intelligence officer.
He revealed that one trigger used in a recent Iraqi bombing was a three-way device, combining a command wire, a radio signal and an infra-red beam - a technique perfected by the IRA.
Britain claims that the bomb-making expertise now being used in southern Iraq was passed on by Iran's Revolutionary Guard through Hizbollah, the revolutionary Islamist group it sponsors in Lebanon.
But a former agent who infiltrated the IRA told the Independent on Sunday that the technology reached the Middle East through the IRA's co-operation with Palestinian groups. In turn, some of these groups used to be sponsored by Saddam Hussein and his Baath party.
The former agent added: "The flashgun unit was replaced with infra-red and then coded infra-red, but basically they were variations of the same device. The technology came from the security forces, but the IRA always shared its equipment and expertise with Farc guerrillas in Colombia, the Basque separatists, ETA and Palestinian groups.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the technology used to kill our troops in Basra is the same British technology from a decade ago."
Even more alarming is the claim that the devices were supplied by the security services to an agent inside the Provisionals as part of a dangerous game of double bluff.
According to investigators examining past collusion between the security forces and paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, members of the shadowy army undercover outfit, the Force Research Unit, and officers from MI5 learned in the early 1990s that a senior IRA member in south Armagh was working to develop bombs triggered by light beams. They decided the risks would be diminished if they knew what technology was being used.
"The thinking of the security forces was that if they were intimate with the technology, they could develop counter-measures," a senior source said.
"The strategy was sound. Unfortunately no one could see back then that this technology would be used to kill British soldiers thousands of miles away in a different war."