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Iraq: Suicide Attacks Are Military Policy

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This could get really Ugly


(AP) A suicide bomber in a taxi killed four American soldiers in an attack Saturday, March 29, 2003. ...

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IN THE IRAQI DESERT (AP) - A bomber posing as a taxi driver summoned American troops for help, then blew up his vehicle Saturday, killing himself and four soldiers and opening a new chapter of carnage in the war for Iraq.

An Iraqi official said such attacks would be "routine military policy" in Iraq - and, he suggested chillingly, in America.

"We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land," Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said at a Baghdad news conference. "This is just the beginning. You'll hear more pleasant news later."

U.S. officials said the bombing occurred at about 10:40 a.m. at a U.S. checkpoint on the highway north of the holy city of Najaf.

A taxi stopped close to the roadblock; the driver waved for help. When soldiers approached the car, it exploded, Capt. Andrew Wallace told Associated Press Television News, killing the driver and four soldiers from the Army's 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

The names of the Americans were not immediately released. But Ramadan identified the bomber as Ali Jaafar al-Noamani, a noncommissioned army officer and father of several children.

Iraq's state television reported that Saddam posthumously promoted al-Noamani to colonel, and bestowed on him two medals - Al-Rafidin, or The Two Rivers, and the Mother of All Battles.

"It's the blessed beginning," said the statement, alluding to the suicide attack. "He wanted to teach the enemy a lesson in the manner used by our Palestinian brothers."

It claimed that 11 American soldiers were killed in the attack, two APCs destroyed and two tanks damaged.

"After he kissed a copy of the Quran, he got into his booby-trapped car and went to an area where enemy armored cars and tanks were gathered on the fringes of Najaf and turned his pure body and explosives-laden car into a rocket and blew himself up," the statement said.

Ramadan said Iraq, like many other nations, cannot match American weaponry. "They have bombs that can kill 500 people, but I am sure that the day will come when a single martyrdom operation will kill 5,000 enemies."

Thousands of Arab volunteers have been pouring into Iraq since the start of the war, he said, adding that Iraq will provide them with what they need to fight the allied forces.

"The Iraqi people have a legal right to deal with the enemy with any means," he added.

This was the first such attack since the invasion began. It was, said Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart of the U.S. Central Command, "a symbol of an organization that's starting to get a little bit desperate."

At a Pentagon news conference Saturday, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said suicide attacks would not change the way U.S.-led forces proceed in the war, except that they would take more care in vulnerable locations like checkpoints.

"We're very concerned about it. It looks and feels like terrorism," he said.

Col. Will Grimsley, commander of the brigade that was hit, said force protection remained the highest priority, "but that doesn't mean we're going to back into little holes and hide."

"The local population that's here and happy that we're here - they tell us all the time, they've been feeling the same kind of terrorist repression for years and now unfortunately it's hit American soldiers. I think it only tightens the resolve of why we're here."

The 3rd Infantry Division is based at Fort Stewart, near Hinesville, Ga., and news of the attack hit the town hard.

"It's not the deaths, it's the way it was done," said Ellen Seider, a local print shop owner who spent Friday night helping Army wives stamp out buttons printed with photos of their husbands.

"There are bad people, there are mean people and there are evil people," she said. "And Saddam Hussein is pure evil."

The attack did not come without warning.

Iraqi dissidents and Arab media have claimed that Saddam has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out similar bombings against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden also urged Iraqis in an audio tape on Arabic television last month to employ the tactic, used frequently by Palestinian militants against Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Though the Iraqis said the bomber was an Army officer, Lt. Col. Ahmed Radhi, an exiled Iraqi officer in Cairo, Egypt and former commander of an army brigade, said he did not believe it. The claim, Radhi said, was "a stupid method to raise morale among the army."

If a soldier was involved, Radhi insisted, he either did not know his car carried a bomb or was acting under duress.

In 1970, Saddam sent a group of security officers with a booby-trapped car to kill Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani, father of Massoud Barzani, current chief of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The car exploded prematurely, killing the security officers while Mustafa Barzani survived.

The biggest suicide attack against the U.S. military abroad was in Lebanon, when a truck packed with explosives drove into a U.S. Marine base in Beirut and exploded in the early morning of Oct. 23, 1983, as the troops slept. The attack killed 241 American servicemen and leveled the base. A simultaneous suicide attack on a Beirut base for French soldiers killed 58 paratroopers.

The Americans and the French were in Lebanon as part of an ill-fated peacekeeping mission to end Lebanon's civil war. Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militants were blamed for the attacks.

In 1996, a truck bomb at the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia killed 19 U.S. servicemen.

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The thought of suicide bombings changes the whole thing. Sure, it seems when all is said and done.... this might make the Japanese Kamikaze pilots pale in comparison, since they could be seen a mile away before hitting their targets. God help us.:(

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