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投稿者 木村愛二 日時 2003 年 8 月 31 日 12:53:45:CjMHiEP28ibKM


Iraqi shrine blast linked to UN attack

Identical explosives and al-Qaeda arrests suggest bombings are part of a larger strategy

Peter Beaumont in Najaf and Edward Helmore in New York
Sunday August 31, 2003
The Observer

The explosives used in the devastating bomb attack on the Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf that may have killed over 100 worshippers, including a leading Iraqi Shia cleric, are identical to those used in last week's bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

The disclosure, by Iraqi police sources, came as they announced that they had arrested four men - including two Saudis - in connection with the bombing of Iraq's most holy Shia shrine. All four had links to an al-Qaeda terror network.

US military sources confirmed three arrests - two of them brought to soldiers by angry locals who said they believed they were suspicious strangers.

If the al-Qaeda link is true, the arrests would confirm claims by coalition officials in Baghdad that former members of Saddam's security apparatus have formed an alliance with the hundreds of Jihadist fighters entering Iraq to fight US troops.

Although the motives for the murder of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim - which also killed between 80 and 110 bystanders - are still unclear, fighters from the Wahabi sect, prevalent in Saudi Arabia, regard Shia rituals as idolatrous. Hakim too had been co-operating with the American occupation force.

Hakim's Supreme Council for an Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which operated out of Iran until Saddam was ousted, has a seat on Iraq's US-appointed Governing Council.

The police official, who lead the initial investigation and interrogation of the captives, told Associated Press that the captured prisoners told of other plots to kill political and religious leaders and to damage vital installations such as electricity generation plants, water supplies and oil pipelines.

The police official said the men arrested after the attack claimed the recent bombings were designed to 'keep Iraq in a state of chaos so that police and American forces are unable to focus attention' on the country's porous borders, through which suspected foreign fighters are said to be infiltrating.

The attack in Najaf on Friday came amid a rapidly worsening security situation in the country. Despite claims by senior Coalition Provisional Authority officials that security is improving, the forces are encountering a wave of improvised explosive devices, which according to some security sources, have been placed on almost every major thoroughfare in the city in the last week.

Although US forces here have uncovered several bomb-making factories in recent weeks, it appears to have had little impact.

The most common device being planted is a 155mm tank shell rigged with a grenade on a tripwire or command wire, which while extremely crude, has been devastatingly effective against early-morning US patrols.

It has also followed threats to foreigners and international organisations working in Iraq, which has led some to evacuate completely, like Oxfam last week, or the UN to draw down its staff by almost 90 per cent.

The arrests came as tens of thousands of Shias gathered in the streets of Najaf to mourn the dead Ayatollah, and to protest his slaying and lack of protection by coalition forces.

In a mark of the declining relationship between ordinary Iraqis and foreigners in the country, correspondents for both the Arab and international media were threatened with violence by mobs in the city for the second day, some of them having to be rescued by armed Iraqi police.

Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at Warwick University, said the Najaf attack was a blow to the occupiers' efforts to bolster moderate Shias.

'It's also a dire and public warning to all Iraqis with links to theUS-led Coalition Provisional Authority and a drive to heighten sectarian tensions,' Dodge said. Some Iraqis working for the Coalition have already been killed while others have been threatened. 'As with the Jordanian embassy,' said Dodge, 'and UN bombings, they are cutting off the moderate pillars of a future Iraqi state.'

The Bush administration's muted reaction to Friday's bomb in Najaf exposed the US paralysis on governance in post-war Iraq and underscored the confusion of who should respond - and how - to the latest terror attack.

On Friday, the lack of reaction from US officials in Baghdad and Washington illustrated how unevolved the nascent administration of Iraq remains three months after the official end of hostilities.

In an apparent power vaccum after the bomb, Paul Bremer, the chief American administrator, was on vacation. The US military command said nothing and the Bush administration distanced itself from taking the lead role in the investigation.

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