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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Suicide attacker’s family rewarded

Islamic Jihad sends more bombers to Iraq

March 31, 2003

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— Iraq gave $34,000 to the family of an Iraqi army officer who killed four U.S. soldiers in a suicide attack, and the leader of the militant group Islamic Jihad said Sunday its volunteers had gone to Baghdad for similar bombing missions against the "American invasion."

Ali Jaafar al-Noamani, a noncommissioned officer with several children, was posthumously promoted to colonel and awarded two medals for the attack in Najaf that killed the unidentified Americans, Iraqi state television reported.

His family reportedly was given a fortune by Iraqi standards: 100 million dinars, the equivalent of $34,000.

Baghdad warns that more such attacks will follow. The top commander of the war, U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks, told reporters in Qatar that two brothers surrendered to coalition troops in the southern Iraqi city of Umm Qasr on Saturday and admitted they had been sent by the Iraqi government to carry out a suicide attack.

In the Israeli coastal town of Netanya on Sunday, an Islamic militant blew himself up in a crowded pedestrian mall, wounding 30 bystanders in what Islamic Jihad called "a gift to the heroic Iraqi people."

Ramadan Shallah, Islamic Jihad's leader in Damascus, Syria, also said the group already had "martyrdom seekers" in Iraq.

"This is fulfillment of the call of sacred duty ... an opportunity for Jihad and martyrdom is available now for the Islamic nation," he said.

"We say to all sons of Jihad and supporters, to our nation, our people, wherever they are, that whoever is able to march and reach Iraq, Baghdad, Najaf and blow himself up in this American invasion. ... This is the climax of Jihad and climax of martyrdom."

Shallah urged "the entire (Islamic) nation, including the Jihad and resistance in Palestine, if they were able to get there, to fight side by side with the Iraqi people against this butcher Bush."

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan indicated Saturday's attack in Najaf was "just the beginning" and even raised the specter of terrorism on U.S. or British soil. "We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land."

Thousands of Arab volunteers ready for martyrdom have been coming to Iraq since the start of the war, Ramadan said. A prolonged stay of U.S. and British forces in Iraq could turn the country into a magnet for Muslim militants seeking a new jihad.

"If there is an American occupation, then Iraq will definitely move to the top of the list of jihad for the international network of Islamists," John Voll, an Islamic affairs expert at Georgetown University, told The Associated Press from Washington.

Thousands of foreign Muslims joined the Afghan mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. After that, some went on to continue the fight in other trouble spots such as the Balkans and Chechnya.

More recently, the U.S. military campaign against Afghanistan's Taliban government lured a ragtag army of thousands, mainly from neighboring Pakistan, vowing jihad against the Americans.

Coalition officials said it would not change the way the U.S.-led forces proceed -- except that they would be more cautious in vulnerable locations like traffic checkpoints.

"It's just a reminder that there are some very desperate people out there. We've got to be on our toes," Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday.

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