- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

BAGHDAD — A video posted by an Iraqi insurgent group yesterday 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 said the bomber slipped into the base through a hole in the fence during a guard change — an operation carried out after a long period of surveillance.

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 of the pre-suicide ritual gives no details about the bomber beyond his name.

The Ansar al-Sunnah Army earlier had said it would release a video of Tuesday’s attack, which killed 22 persons, including 18 U.S. service members and civilian contractors.

The bombing — the deadliest attack on a U.S. base in Iraq — 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” also were 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 might 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 terrorists 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.

The terrorist in the center reads a statement describing how the attack will be carried out. No mention is made of wearing a uniform.

“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. We have been observing their schedule for a long time.

“This lion will then proceed to his target, and he will take advantage of lunchtime, when the dining hall is crowded with the crusaders and their [Iraqi] allies.

“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,” the terrorist said, referring to President Bush and Prime Ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Iyad 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 gunman 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.

Gen. Zabari, meanwhile, 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.

A day before the attack in Mosul, after a string of deadly suicide bombings in southern Iraq, Mr. 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,” Mr. Bush said at a Dec. 20 press conference.

Asked about Mr. Bush’s comments, Gen. Zebari told the AP: “I think the president received misleading information.”

Gen. Zebari, Iraq’s only four-star general, insisted that 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,” Gen. Zebari said.

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