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March 29, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Iraq Says Suicide Strikes Are 'Policy'
Iraq Declares Suicide Attacks 'Military Policy' After Bomber Kills 4 U.S. Troops at Checkpoint

The Associated Press


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IN THE IRAQI DESERT March 29

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. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said the bombing occurred at about 10:40 a.m. The bomber struck at a U.S. checkpoint on the highway north of the city of Najaf, U.S. military officers said.

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: Ali Jaafar al-Noamani, a noncommissioned army officer and father of several children.

He 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."

Saddam Hussein's "incredibly repressive regime," he said, "is being fueled by fanatics like this who have now killed American soldiers and continue to terrorize their own population."

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.

"We have prepared ourselves for all kinds of war," Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said in a mid-March television interview.

"For many months, tens of thousands have volunteered to serve as martyrdom-seekers (suicide attackers) in the battle with the American enemy. We trained them and readied them. We have prepared ourselves for street fighting and desert fighting."

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

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 U.S. Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia killed 19 U.S. servicemen.


photo credit and caption:
A suicide bomber in a taxi killed four American soldiers in an attack Saturday, March 29, 2003. The suicide bombing was the first against U.S. and British forces since the invasion began. The bomber struck at a U.S. checkpoint on the highway north of the city of Najaf. (AP Graphic)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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