More foreign fighters seen slipping into Iraq
Officials see the fingerprints of foreign fighters in a spate of recent attacks:
• Four of the church bombers were from Libya and Syria and carried fake ID cards that identified them as mutes to avoid talking in foreign accents to checkpoint guards, Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Ahmed Abu Raghef told the Associated Press. He said $70,000 cash was seized from a western Baghdad home where their cell’s leaders were operating.
• A Tunisian who also was pretending to be mute was arrested on terror charges in August in eastern Diyala province, according to an Iraqi security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
• A Moroccan fighter was captured and two non-Iraqi insurgents were killed in a raid Thursday in the northern city of Mosul, said Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, a Defense Ministry spokesman.
• A Nov. 2 string of rapid-fire blasts in Shi’ite neighborhoods across Baghdad killed 91. The Iraqi counterterrorism commander, Maj. Gen. Fadhel al-Barwari, said it must have been carried out with foreign financing to buy the explosives needed “to launch an attack with a big number of casualties.”
U.S. officials and experts voiced doubt that the foreign aid is as high as Iraqi and Mideast authorities believe.
Michael Knights, a Lafter fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, predicted there are only “small cells of experienced foreign fighters in ISI.”
But an analysis by the private global intelligence firm Stratfor concluded that foreign help in the church siege signals that al Qaeda “may have found a new source for militants, and they may have more resources to carry out fresh attacks.”
Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana in Baghdad and Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.