Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told a news conference, ”Any method that stops or kills the enemy will be used. What are they doing in our land? Let them pack and go.”
“The United States will turn the whole world to martyrs against it. What do they expect? The Arabs and Muslims are not allowed to develop missiles and bombs as powerful as theirs,” Ramadan said.
Thousands of Arab volunteers were arriving in Iraq to fight the invading U.S. and British forces, he added.
Iraq said earlier that Ali Hammadi al-Namani, a junior army officer, had carried out “a martyrdom operation” and that President Saddam Hussein had awarded him two posthumous medals.
“It’s the blessed beginning,” said a statement released by the Iraqi government, alluding to the suicide attack. “He wanted to teach the enemy a lesson in the manner used by our Palestinian brothers.”
U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, confirmed the suicide bombing but had no additional details. Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart said the attack was “a symbol of an organization that’s starting to get a little bit desperate,” he said, but added it would have no “operational impact” on U.S. forces.
“There is a fair amount of civilian traffic that we have to be very cautious with. And obviously in this case these forces took advantage of a situation,” Renuart continued.
The car bomb exploded just outside Najaf on the road north to Kerbala, not far from the furthest forward positions that U.S. troops have reached in the 10-day-old war against Iraq.
A small city on the Euphrates River, Najaf is about 100 miles south of Baghdad and has been the scene of intense fighting between Iraqi and U.S. troops.
According to witnesses, a taxi stopped close to the checkpoint, and the driver appeared to wave for help. As soldiers approached the car, it exploded, Capt. Andrew Wallace told Associated Press. The victims were part of the Army’s 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
It was not immediately known if the car driver was alone or had been accompanied by a passenger, a military official told Reuters.
Saturday’s suicide bombing was the first against coalition forces since the invasion of Iraq began, but there have been warnings that Iraqi militants might employ such tactics.
Iraqi dissidents and Arab media have claimed that Saddam Hussein has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in Iraq.
Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden urged Iraqis last month in an audio tape aired on Arabic television to employ the tactic against the Americans. Other Arab militants also spoke about suicide missions against the invading armies.