Iraq Suicide Bomber Caught On Tape

IRAQ : In this image from television, rescuers go to the aid of a suicide bomb victim at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan headquarters on Sunday, Feb. 1. 2004 in Irbil, northern Iraq on the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. A second suicide attacker exploded a bomb at a gathering of the Kurdish Democratic Party also in Irbil on Sunday. Sixtyseven people died in the two bombings. AP Photo/KurdSat via APTN

A video camera captured images of a man shaking hands with a Kurdish official seconds before blowing himself up in one of the two suicide bombings during Muslim holiday celebrations that killed 101 people. Kurds blamed Ansar al-Islam, a militant group allegedly linked to al Qaeda, for the attacks.

The video shows the suicide bomber mingling with hundreds of well-wishers greeting officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, on Sunday, the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. A second attacker slipped into a gathering of the Kurdish Democratic Party across town.

In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Tuesday the U.S. investigation has not determined who was behind the Sunday attack, although he said it could have been carried out by Ansar al-Islam or al Qaeda.

Kimmitt also said there were an average of 23 engagements a day between U.S. soldiers and Iraqi insurgents over the past week, compared with 18 the week before.

In other developments:

  • U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan meets with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell at the White House to discuss the U.N. sending a pre-election team to Iraq.
  • Powell said in a published report that he was unsure whether he would have recommended an invasion of Iraq had he been told there was no evidence Saddam had stockpiles of banned weapons.
  • In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that Britain will also hold an inquiry into the intelligence used in deciding to go to war with Iraq.
  • The New York Times reports that American forces were plagued by a "morass" of supply shortages, radios that could not reach far-flung troops, disappointing psychological operations and virtually no reliable intelligence on how Saddam Hussein would defend Baghdad.

    On Monday, the two main Kurdish parties -- both U.S. allies but often at odds with each other -- held a joint memorial at the largest mosque in Erbil, the heartland of the Kurdish self-rule region.

    The PUK video shows only the back of the bomber's head as he joined the line. The man, apparently in his 20s or 30s, shook hands with one of the Irbil office's deputy chiefs, then stepped forward and put his hand in that of another, Shakhwan Abbas.

    "That's when he blew himself up," said Azad Jundiyani, head of the PUK's media department.

    The death toll in the weekend double suicide bombings in the Kurdish city of Erbil climbed to 101, the U.S.-led coalition said Tuesday.

    Much of the evidence of the bombing had been removed from the KDP site by Monday. What remained was dried blood on the floors and walls, yellow prayer beads, a bloodstained telephone book, candies strewn on the floor, and pieces of clothes, among other things.

    "I can only say that it's very painful to see all this," said Hoger Nader, a KDP militiaman. "I feel the blast broke our backs and destroyed our nest."

    No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, the bloodiest in Iraq in six months. But Kurdish and U.S. officials blamed Muslim extremists -- particularly Ansar al-Islam, an armed group that operates in the Kurdish enclave and is believed allied with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.

    "All indications point to the involvement of Islamic terrorists with al Qaeda connections," Barham Salih, prime minister of the PUK-dominated sector of the Kurdish region, said by telephone from Washington.

    Ansar al-Islam, or "Helpers of Islam," is a group of several hundred Kurdish militants who have vowed to establish an independent Islamic state in the north. It was formed in 2000 and began stepping up its activities in October 2001.

    Kurdish officials say more Ansar fighters have entered Iraq since Saddam Hussein's fall.

    "Our information indicates that al Qaeda was behind this ugly terrorist act," Kosrat Rasul Ali, the No. 2 man in PUK, told The Associated Press.

    Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division, told reporters that the Erbil bombings, along with a Jan. 18 attack in the capital that killed 25 people, were "different from the sort of hit-and-run style" of Saddam loyalists thought to be behind anti-U.S. attacks in Baghdad and central Iraq.

    "It concerns us that it could be another enemy, a different enemy, a foreign-influenced enemy, a terrorist network enemy," he said in Baghdad.

    Also in Baghdad, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer insisted Tuesday that security was improving in Iraq since Saddam was captured Dec. 13.

    "I think the situation has improved importantly since the capture of Saddam Hussein," Bremer told reporters. "Every day that goes by we have more and Iraqis responsible for their own security in the Civil Defense Force and police, Iraqi army and border police."

    The United States is pushing to meet a June 30 deadline for handing over power to the Iraqis and is seeking to work out differences with Iraqi leaders on creating a new government. Amid the wrangling, the Kurds are demanding to hold onto the considerable autonomy they enjoy in the north.

    On Tuesday, insurgents fired two rockets at Baghdad International Airport but caused no casualties, the U.S. military said. The airport is used as a major base for the military. A command spokesman said the rockets were fired from a heavily populated area of the city.
    • Joel Roberts

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