By John Ward Anderson and Hasan Shammari
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, November 14, 2005
BAGHDAD, Nov. 13 -- Top Iraqi defense officials on Sunday accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to operate training camps on Syrian soil and sneak into Iraq to commit suicide bombings.
"We do not have the least doubt that nine out of 10 of the suicide bombers who carry out suicide bombing operations among Iraqi citizens . . . are Arabs who have crossed the border with Syria," the Iraqi national security adviser, Mowaffak Rubaie, told journalists in Cairo, the Reuters news service reported.
"Most of those who blow themselves up in Iraq are Saudi nationals," he added.
Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaimi also criticized Syria.
"We have more than 450 detainees who came from different Arab and Muslim countries to train in Syria and enter with their booby-trapped vehicles into Iraq to bring destruction and killings," Dulaimi said after meeting with Jordanian Prime Minister Adnan Badran in Amman, according to the Associated Press.
"Let me tell the Syrians that if the Iraqi volcano explodes, no neighboring capital will be saved," Dulaimi said, warning that the aim of terrorists was "to kill tolerance and destroy coexistence in Arab and Muslim cities."
The charges came as Jordan blamed Iraqi suicide bombers for three blasts at hotels in Amman on Wednesday that killed 57 people. The allegations also echo complaints from U.S. military officials that Syria has done little to patrol its 376-mile border with Iraq.
In Iraq, meanwhile, two Marines were killed Saturday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Amiriyah, about 25 miles southwest of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement Sunday. And a U.S. soldier died Saturday in a "non-hostile" traffic accident near Rawah, in western Iraq, about 50 miles from the Syrian border, the military said in a separate statement.
In Baqubah, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi forces arrested 371 suspected terrorists on Saturday, including the town's mayor, the deputy chairman of the city council, the deputy chief of the appeals court and several police officers, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hasan Tamimi, a senior Interior Ministry official, said Sunday.
Local officials expressed outrage at the sweeping arrests, complaining that they were based on unsubstantiated tips. The mayor, Khaid Sanjari, said he was released Sunday without being questioned. Oaf Rahoomi, the deputy provincial governor, called the arrests "random" and charged that the operation had "sectarian goals" aimed at preventing Sunni Arabs from taking part in national elections scheduled for Dec. 15.
Sunni Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population, controlled the country under former president Saddam Hussein. Shiite Muslims, who account for 60 percent of the population, now dominate the country's security forces.
Confusion continued to surround the fate of a former top aide to Hussein, Izzat Ibrahim Douri, the country's most wanted man, after an obscure Arabic-language Web site reported Friday that he had died. Douri, who would be about 63 and reportedly has leukemia, is considered the highest-ranking member of Hussein's inner circle still at large.
Another Web site, the official site of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, reported Sunday that "the holy warrior Izzat Douri" was "fine," calling earlier reports of his death baseless.
"We apologize to our brothers and sisters for publishing a statement announcing the death of brother Izzat Douri, Abu Ahmed, may God extend his life," the brief message stated.
It was not possible to independently confirm the reports. Many reports of Douri's death appear to be based on Internet echoes from the Web site in Britain with Baathist ties that first reported his death on Friday -- interspersed with a variety of stories and pictures of such figures as Paul McCartney, Rosa Parks and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
There have been several reports that Douri might be spreading false rumors about himself, and a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, warned that the reports of Douri's death could be a hoax.
"Coalition officials question the validity of the Baath party claim that Douri has died," the U.S. military said in a statement Sunday night. A reward of up to $10 million would be paid "for information leading to al-Douri's capture or his gravesite," it said.
Shammari reported from Baqubah.