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Iraq threatens more suicide bombings

"We will follow the enemy into its land," said Iraq's Vice President, "This is just the beginning."

india Updated: Mar 29, 2003 23:46 IST

A suicide bomber in a taxi killed four American soldiers in an attack on Saturday. Iraq's vice president identified the bomber as an Iraqi army officer and said suicide attacks will now be "routine military policy."

"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 press conference. "This is just the beginning. You'll hear more pleasant news later."

The suicide bombing was the first against US and British forces since the invasion began.

The bomber struck at a US checkpoint on the highway north of the city of Najaf, US military officers said. A taxi stopped close to the checkpoint, and the driver waved for help. The soldiers approached the car and it exploded, Capt Andrew Wallace told Associated Press Television News.

Wallace said the victims were part of the Army's 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

US Central Command in Doha, Qatar, confirmed the incident. Maj-Gen Victor Renuart said that kind of attack was "a symbol of an organization that's starting to get a little bit desperate."

Ramadan identified the bomber as Ali Jaafar al-Noamani, a noncommissioned army officer and father of several children. A detailed statement on the bombing would be issued later, he said. Regarding suicide bombings, Ramadan said Iraq, like many other nations, cannot match the weaponry of the United States. "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," he said.

He said thousands of Arab volunteers have been pouring into Iraq since the start of the war and that Iraq will provide them with what they need to fight.

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

Ramadan said Iraq won't accept any diplomatic bid to end the fighting unless it provides for the departure of US and British troops within 48 hours.

He also rejected the latest UN Security Council resolution on resuming humanitarian aid to Iraq, saying it provided a blanket of legitimacy for the US-led invasion.

"We categorically reject the Security Council resolution," he said. "It was born dead and will remain dead."

There have been warnings of suicide attacks in Iraq. Iraqi dissidents and Arab media have claimed that Saddam Hussein has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out suicide bombings against US forces in Iraq.

Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden also urged Iraqis last month in an audio tape aired on Arabic television to employ the tactic against the Americans. Other Arab militants also spoke about suicide missions against the invading armies.

Such suicide attacks have been used numerous times by Palestinian militants in targeting the better equipped Israeli army during the uprising on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri was asked in a mid-March television interview, whether Iraq would use the tactic of suicide attacks against the invading American forces.

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

The biggest suicide bombing against the US military abroad was in Lebanon when a truck packed with explosives drove into the US Marine base at Beirut International Airport and exploded in the early morning Oct. 23, 1983, as the troops slept. The attack killed 241 American servicemen and leveled the base. Simultaneously, a Beirut base for French soldiers was attacked by another suicide bomber, killing 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 US Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia killed 19 US servicemen.

First Published: Mar 29, 2003 15:37 IST