Suicide Bomber Said Cause of Iraq Attack
The U.S. military said Wednesday that a suicide bomber likely carried out the explosion at a U.S. base near Mosul, spraying a crowded mess tent with small pellets and killing 22 people Ã¢€” nearly all of them Americans. The announcement raised questions about how the attacker infiltrated the base, which is surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire and guarded by U.S. troops. However, as in many other U.S. military facilities, Iraqis do a variety of jobs at the base, including cleaning, cooking, construction and office duties.
The apparent sophistication of Tuesday’s operation Ã¢€” the deadliest single attack on U.S. troops since the war began Ã¢€” indicated the attacker probably had inside knowledge of the base’s layout and the soldiers’ schedule. The blast came at lunchtime. “We have had a suicide bomber apparently strap something to his body … and go into a dining hall,” Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We know how difficult this is to prevent people bent on suicide and stopping them.”
There was little apparent sympathy for the dead Americans on Mosul’s deserted streets, where hundreds of U.S. troops, backed up by armored vehicles and helicopters, blocked bridges and cordoned off Sunni Muslim areas of Iraq’s third-largest city. “I wish that 2,000 U.S. soldiers were killed,” declared Jamal Mahmoud, a trade union official.
Initial reports said a rocket had ripped into the tent. Later, however, a radical Sunni Muslim group, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed responsibility, saying it was a “martyrdom operation” Ã¢€” generally a reference to a suicide bomber. Military officials in Iraq said Wednesday that shrapnel from the explosion included small ball bearings, which are often used in suicide bombings but are not usually part of shrapnel from rockets or mortars.
I’m a bit surprised that an IED was mistaken for a mortar attack, given that the latter comes from above and usually with more than one explosion. Defending against a mortar attack is much more difficult than preventing a lone suicide bomber from getting into a chow hall. One would expect that local personnel employed for base services would have some sort of security badge under present circumstances, increasing the likelihood that this was done by an insider.