Duraid Adnan and Tim Arango — National Post Feb 11, 2014
It would probably be rule No. 1 in the manual for instructors of aspiring suicide bombers: Don’t teach with live explosives.
In a cautionary tale for terrorist teachers — and a cause of dark humour for ordinary Iraqis — a commander at a secluded terrorist training camp north of Baghdad unwittingly used a belt packed with explosives while conducting a demonstration early Monday for a group of militants, killing himself and 21 other members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, army and police officials said.
Iraqi citizens have long been accustomed to daily attacks on public markets, mosques, funerals and even children’s soccer games, so for them the story of the fumbling militants was seen as a dark – and delicious – kind of poetic justice, especially coming amid a protracted surge of violence led by the terrorist group.
Just last week a suicide bomber struck a popular falafel shop near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here, killing several people. On Monday evening, Raad Hashim, working the counter at a liquor store near the site of the attack, burst out laughing when he heard the news.
“This is so funny,” Hashim said. “It shows how stupid they are, those dogs and sons of dogs.”
More seriously, he said, “it also gives me pain, as I remember all the innocent people that were killed here.”
“This is God showing justice,” Hashim continued. “This is God sending a message to the bad people and the criminals in the world, to tell them to stop the injustice and to bring peace. Evil will not win in the end. It’s always life that wins over death.”
Iraq is facing its worst violence in more than five years, with nearly 9,000 people killed last year and almost 1,000 people killed last month.
Terrorist training camps have been set up in the mountainous areas of Diyala province. Northern Nineveh province is a gateway for jihadis traveling from Iraq to Syria. Mosul, Nineveh’s capital, has become a centre of financing for militant groups estimated by one Iraqi official at millions of dollars a month, generated by extortion and other schemes.
Suicide attacks make up an increasing share of the operations financed by this money stream. At a congressional hearing last week Brett McGurk, a senior State Department official, said 50 suicide attacks in Iraq in November, compared with just three in November 2012.
“The suicide bomber phenomenon, it is complete insanity,” McGurk said.
In addition to the 22 militants who were killed, 15 others were wounded at the incident at the militant compound, which was in a rural area of northeastern Salahuddin province, according to police and army officials. Stores of other explosives, including at least 10 vehicles packed with explosives, ready for operations, were found at the camp, as well as heavy weapons, the officials said.
Eight militants were arrested when they tried to escape, the officials said. The militant commander who was conducting the training was not identified by name, but he was described by an Iraqi army officer as a prolific recruiter who was, “able to kill the bad guys for once.”
Referring to the recruiting pitch that martydom is a sure ticket to heaven and the virgins that await there, the officer added, “Maybe this suicide bomber will really get to heaven as they say.”
Back at the liquor store in Baghdad on Monday evening, Hashim, in almost a celebratory mood, passed four bottles of Corona to a customer and took his money.
“What happened today was not death, but it was life to us. Those 22 who were killed today might have killed hundreds of Iraqis, hundreds of innocent souls. May they burn in hell.”