A video posted by an Iraqi insurgent group Sunday purported to show last week’s suicide attack at a U.S. base in Mosul, with a fireball rising from a white tent. The group claimed that the bomber slipped into the base through a hole in the fence during a guard change.
The footage showed a black-garbed gunman wearing an explosives belt around his body — apparently the suicide bomber, identified in the tape as Abu Omar al-Mosuli — bidding farewell to his comrades. The video gives no further details about the bomber beyond his name.
The Ansar al-Sunnah Army had earlier said it would release a video of last Tuesday’s attack, which killed 22 people, including 18 U.S. service members and civilian contractors.
The bombing — the deadliest attack on a U.S. base in Iraq — has prompted a U.S. military investigation into how the bomber got onto the heavily guarded site and how security at bases can be improved. Three Iraqi National Guardsmen and a fourth “non-U.S. person” were also killed. The military has not said whether that fourth man was the bomber.
The U.S. military has said the attacker probably was wearing an Iraqi military uniform, and one general said the Iraqi security forces may have been infiltrated. The Iraqi chief of staff, Gen. Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the bomber may have bought a uniform from the market but was not a member of the Iraqi security forces.
In the first section of the video — with a time signature of Dec. 20, a day before the attack — three gunmen wearing black masks and clothes and holding automatic rifles are shown sitting in front of a black banner with the group’s name on it. One of them, apparently al-Mosuli, sits on the left, wearing an explosives belt.
Authenticity not verified
The gunman in the center reads a statement describing how the attack will be carried out. No mention is made of wearing a uniform. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.
“One of the lions from our martyrdom-seeking brothers will infiltrate the defenses of the enemy at the Morez base in Mosul. He will slip through a hole in the camp’s wire, exploiting the changing of the guard,” the gunman said. “We have been observing their schedule for a long time.”
“This lion will then proceed to his target, and he will take advantage of lunch time, when the dining hall is crowded with the crusaders and their (Iraqi) allies,” he said. “The operation will then be carried out.”
“Let Bush, Blair and Allawi know that we are coming and that we will chase them all away, God willing,” he said, referring to President Bush and prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Ayad Allawi of Iraq.
The two men then embrace the one wearing the explosives belt.
An image then shows a map of the base, as one of the gunmen points out locations using a military knife. One location is marked “the dining hall” in Arabic.
A later outdoor video image — shot on Tuesday, when the attack occurred — shows a fireball rising from the distance with the accompanying sound of the explosion. A final image — shot from a vehicle driving past the base — shows the torn white tent that served as the base mess hall.
Iraqi general defends forces
Zebari on Sunday rejected President Bush’s criticism that some Iraqi government troops were unwilling to fight insurgents and have deserted the battlefield, saying the president had been misinformed.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Zebari also said that the man who carried out Tuesday’s suicide attack in Mosul was not a member of the Iraqi security forces.
The bombing, which was the deadliest attack on a U.S. base in Iraq, highlighted that the anti-U.S. insurgency has not diminished even after American offenses last month. A day before the attack, following a string of deadly suicide bombings in southern Iraq, Bush made a sobering assessment and criticized the performance of Iraqi troops.
“There have been some cases where, when the heat got on, they left the battlefield — that is unacceptable,” Bush said at a Dec. 20 press conference.
Asked about Bush’s comments, Zebari told AP: “I think the president received misleading information.”
General: No desertions from combat
Zebari, Iraq’s only four-star general, insisted none of his troops had deserted from combat. But he acknowledged that some recruits undergoing training had quit after being told they would be posted to the restive city of Fallujah, which was taken in a U.S.-led assault in November.
“Not a single soldier ran away from the battlefield (in Fallujah). It was not a difficult battle. Fallujah was cleaned, and the number of our martyrs (fatalities) was only seven.” Zebari said.
Zebari said it was possible the bomber in the Mosul blast was wearing an Iraqi uniform, noting that such uniforms are sold in markets. “It is not difficult for a person to wear one,” he said.
“Certainly (the suicide bomber) was not a member of the National Guards because all of our men stationed in the base have been accounted for,” he said.
Iraqi National Guards are also posted at the American base at Marez, just south of Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
In the interview at his heavily guarded headquarters in downtown Baghdad, Zebari said Iraqi forces are getting stronger every day and that he expected them to be capable of replacing the Americans within six months to a year.
“The insurgents are getting weaker. Hardly a day passes without detaining or killing dozens of them,” he said.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi recently said the government commands almost 100,000 trained and combat-ready Iraqis, including police, national guard and army, and has accelerated the development of special forces and a counter-terrorist strike force.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said the number of trained Iraqi forces is going to increase by 45,000 by elections set for Jan. 30.
Zebari: Foreign fighters still infiltrating
Zebari reiterated his claim that foreign fighters are still infiltrating into Iraq from Syria.
“I don’t know if the (Syrian) government is closing its eyes or the terrorists are finding their ways to cross,” Zebari said.
Zebari said six Arabs using forged Iraqi identity cards were detained near the Syrian border on Thursday. He said the men were detained with explosives in their possession.
Zebari’s comments came a day after Najaf’s police commander, Ghaleb al-Jazaeri, said police detained an Iraqi who confessed to receiving training in a camp in Syria under the supervision of a Syrian military officer. The man was apparently involved in a bombing in Najaf earlier this month that killed 54 people.
Syria on Sunday dismissed al-Jazaeri’s statements as “baseless and nonobjective.”