The bombers are recruited from Sunni communities, smuggled into Iraq from Syria after receiving religious indoctrination, and then quickly bundled into cars or strapped with explosive vests and sent to their deaths, the officials told The Associated Press. The young men are not so much fighters as human bombs — a relatively small but deadly component of the Iraqi insurgency.
"The foreign fighters are the ones that most often are behind the wheel of suicide car bombs, or most often behind any suicide situation," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Alston, spokesman for the Multinational Force in Iraq.
Officials have long believed that non-Iraqis infiltrating the country through its porous borders with Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia were behind most suicide missions, and the wave of bloody strikes in recent months has confirmed that thinking.
Authorities have found little evidence that Iraqis have been behind the near-daily stream of suicide attacks over the past six months, U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity.
There have been a few exceptions.
On election day Jan. 30, a mentally handicapped Iraqi boy, wearing a suicide vest, attacked a polling station. An attack on a U.S. military mess hall in the northern city of Mosul in December that killed 22 also was believed to have been carried out by an Iraqi, as was a deadly June 11 attack on the heavily guarded Baghdad headquarters of the Interior Ministry's feared Wolf Brigade.