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Islamic suicide bombers come to Iraq's help

At least 6,000 Islamic volunteers , with at least half of them ready to carry out suicide attacks against the allied forces, were reported to be coming to Baghdad to fight alongside the Iraqis.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2003 12:15 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's call for jihad, or holy war, could introduce a new element into the Iraq war, and the US should brace for the possibility of more "Islamic terrorism", reports UPI.

As the war has progressed, volunteers from other Arab countries were reported to be coming to Baghdad to fight alongside the Iraqis.

Iraqi officials claim that the number of such volunteers exceeds 6,000, with at least half of them ready to carry out suicide attacks against American and British forces.

There was no confirmation of this number from independent sources. `

Iraq's official television and other Arab satellite television channels are showing footage of the volunteers who have pledged to fight against the US-led coalition. The majority of them are driven by Islamic fervour.

"I am a human bomb from Yemen and I am here for jihad against the American forces," said a teenager arriving in Baghdad with some 150 Yemenis, all of them wearing military uniforms and brandishing machineguns.

Three bearded Syrian volunteers described how they confronted US forces and claimed to have destroyed an Apache helicopter near Babylon before going back to Baghdad.

"We came for martyrdom or victory," said one of them.

In Al-Hilah, many volunteers wore green headbands imprinted with the words "Allah Akbar" (God is great).

"The anger in the Arab world is increasing the popularity of Islamic movements," Ahmed Mousalli, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut and an expert in Islamic studies, said.

"Even the Iraqi regime, which is secular, is using Islamic terminology to mobilize the Muslim and Arab masses."

On Tuesday night, Saddam Hussein urged the Iraqi people to adopt "jihad" until the US-British forces withdraw from the "land of Muslims" and the "fortress of faith".

Some observers interpreted his appeal as "a call for help" to the Islamic world, as the coalition was reportedly nearing Baghdad.

If his appeal is heard, it could well be the beginning of a new and different battle.

For Mousalli, the war is being fought "on Islamic, not nationalist terms" and noted that jihad, once declared, is an obligation on all Muslims.

So far though, with the exception of Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah movement, Saddam's appeal has been only heeded by Sunni Muslims.

"Volunteers are coming from Palestine, Syria, Yemen and other mostly-Sunni countries," Mousalli said. "Shias are torn between two forces they hate: Saddam and the US".

Mousalli referred to increased fatwa, or religious verdicts, to fight "the invaders" coming even from Iran -- a country that has so far opted to remain neutral.

Iraq attacked Iran in 1980 in a conflict that lasted eight years, but there have recently been signs of a cautious rapprochement.

A Palestinian fundamentalist official in Beirut explained that Saddam's shift to Islamic terminology "consistent with the culture and thinking of the Arab nation. The moment Iraq feels threatened, it declares jihad against occupiers," the official said.

"That's why volunteers are going to Iraq and have reacted to the Iraqi speech. It's not a simple emotional reaction. The feeling is that today's battle won't stop in Iraq but will extend to other countries in the region."

The more Saddam resists, the more the Islamic movements would be ready to fight the Americans, Mousalli said.

"It depends on how the war could develop, the number of people killed," he went on.

"They (US and allies) are going to stay a long time. They are not fighting this war to leave: oil has to be secured for the future and the Gulf region has to be under control."

First Published: Apr 03, 2003 12:15 IST