ARLINGTON, Va. — April saw a spate of U.S. troop deaths in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, which have been touted as offering more protection against roadside bombs than Humvees.

Two servicemembers in Iraq were killed when their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Tuesday.

Another two servicemembers in an MRAP vehicle died in a drowning incident, Morrell said during the return trip from Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ visit to Mexico and Texas last week.

The McClatchy Washington Bureau reported on Tuesday that the roadside bomb that killed the two soldiers was an explosively formed penetrator.

Used by Shiite militants, EFPs fire a slug of high density metal at between 4,000 and 6,000 miles per hour, giving them much more power than roadside bombs made from artillery shells.

The projectile punches a relatively small hole in armor, but sprays occupants inside with a stream of shrapnel.

U.S. officials have said EFPs are manufactured in Iran, but have not provided evidence tying the Iranian government with the weapon’s use in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Morrell would not say whether the roadside bomb that killed the two servicemembers in April was an EFP.

“I would never confirm the mode of death, and it’s just not appropriate for us to do from this podium,” Morrell said. “We speak of things in terms of IED attacks. That’s how we, that’s how we describe them. Anything more specific than that would be — we believe — aiding and abetting the enemy, so I’m not prepared to do that.”

Morrell also would not say whether another servicemember in an MRAP vehicle was killed by a roadside bomb in April.

April’s deaths are not the first in MRAP vehicles.

Three servicemembers were killed in November 2006 in an older version of the MRAP vehicle, and two servicemembers were killed in summer 2007 when their Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle was hit by an EFP.

And in January, the gunner in an MRAP vehicle was killed in a roadside bomb attack, marking the first combat death in an MRAP vehicle since the Defense Department ramped up production of the vehicles in May 2007.

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