New Evidence Suggests High Threat of Suicide Bomb Attacks
More than 40 black leather vests packed with C-4 explosive and ball bearings were found littering the floor of an elementary school classroom in Baghdad’s Zayuna neighborhood, Marines told news agencies. The 20-pound vests were located in proximity to boxes of black detonators, dynamite and putty-like blocks that appeared to be explosives.
Empty hangers among the cache of weapons suggested that some of the vests remained unaccounted for.
“Odds are high that someone is out there wearing one,” Marine Lt. David Wright told the Associated Press.
Neighborhood residents said the weapons had been left by paramilitary Fedayeen about a month prior to the discovery. The Fedayeen abandoned the school a week ago, setting fire to the compound only yards away from the nearest homes. Residents discovered the hazardous contents of the classroom when they hurried to extinguish the fire.
The neighborhood men poured sand over the vests as a precaution to dampen any potential explosion.
“We have children, we have families, what are we supposed to do?” asked local resident Farouk al Amary.
Asked to comment on the discovery during Central Command’s briefing early Saturday, U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said, “We don’t have any confirmation on it at this point. We certainly have seen the practice of using suicide vests and we would not be surprised if we indeed find that that report is true as we go on.”
Further evidence suggesting the risk of suicide bombs came Saturday when U.S. special forces stopped and detained the 59 occupants of a bus traveling west near the Syrian border. The military-aged men carried letters offering financial rewards for killing American soldiers and $630,000 in 100-dollar denominations.
U.S. officials could not confirm the nationalities of the men and were unable to offer details regarding the origin of the letters.
“I don’t have any specific information on exactly what countries these men may have been from. We’ve found people who were not Iraqis in a variety of places. [We] don’t have any specific reports on whose letterhead that might have been,” said Brooks.
Suicide bombers have been responsible for the deaths of seven American soldiers.
A car exploded at a checkpoint in Baghdad Thursday, injuring four Marines and a medical corpsman. Two Iraqi women detonated explosives on April 4, killing three American soldiers in addition to themselves. These attacks followed the first suicide bombing of the war, which took place in Najaf on March 29. A bomber posing as a taxi driver pulled up to a roadblock waving to American soldiers for help. The car exploded as they approached, killing four.
Saddam Hussein’s regime has a history of rewarding suicide bombers. The perpetrator of the March 29 bombing was granted a posthumous military promotion, two medals and a financial reward went to his family. Prior to the war, the Iraqi government had sent monetary awards to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
The Iraqi government warned that unconventional means would be employed to defend the regime.
“Any method that stops or kills the enemy will be used,” Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said at a news conference following the March 29 attack.