By Nelson Hernandez and Naseer Nouri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
BAGHDAD, May 23 -- An alleged agent of the group al-Qaeda in Iraq told a chilling story of hijacking, kidnapping and murder in the name of holy war Tuesday, a day after the Jordanian government announced his arrest in an operation carried out in Iraq.
In a videotaped confession broadcast on Jordanian state television, Ziad Khalaf al-Kerbouly related his deeds without a trace of emotion. Though Jordan's government billed him as a high-ranking al-Qaeda operative arrested in the murder of a Jordanian citizen, Kerbouly's account made him sound more like a simple foot soldier for Iraq's most prominent insurgent organization.
His confession gave a rare glimpse into the mentality of the combatants in a conflict in which at least 40 Iraqis were killed Tuesday, in a string of bombings and shootings that have become routine for everyone except those who have to live with the consequences.
Kerbouly said he was an Iraqi customs agent along the western border with Jordan and was in a position to know who was entering and leaving Iraq, and to kill them if it suited al-Qaeda's purposes. Among his targets was a Jordanian truck driver who, he said, hauled goods to Americans in Iraq.
"His name was Khalid al-Dasouqi," Kerbouly recalled in a flat tone. "He said, 'What will you do?' I said, 'I will kill you.' He started to beg me, 'Please, do not kill me,' and so I said, 'I must kill you.' He kept on begging me, and I pulled my personal pistol and said to him, 'Say your prayers.' He said them as he was begging.
"Immediately I shot him twice in the head. I left him in that spot and he was handcuffed and blindfolded. I made sure that he was dead, put his passport and papers over him and went away."
Dasouqi's brother called him afterward, said Kerbouly, who answered the call and told the brother that Dasouqi was still alive. Then he browsed through Dasouqi's cellphone files. Stumbling across a picture of Dasouqi's four young daughters, he said, "I had a kind of a reaction."
Twenty minutes later, he called the family back. "I told them that we have killed Khalid," he said.
Dasouqi's wife, interviewed separately in the broadcast as one of her daughters wept, suggested that Kerbouly be executed in front of a mosque.
Kerbouly also said he had hijacked trucks, killed four Iraqi soldiers and kidnapped two employees of the Moroccan Embassy in Baghdad, who were killed after he handed them over to his superiors.
Al-Arabiya television, quoting the Jordanian government, said Kerbouly was captured in Iraq by Jordanian intelligence agents, carried across the border and eventually arrested at Queen Alia International Airport near Amman, the capital. It was unclear when he was captured, when the confession was recorded or whether it had been coerced.
The Jordanian government has cooperated extensively with U.S. efforts to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq, particularly since the bombing of three hotels last November in Amman, which killed 60 people, plus three bombers. The organization is led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was born in Jordan. U.S. military commanders say that al-Qaeda in Iraq is small but well organized and well financed, and is responsible for many of the car bombings, shootings and kidnappings in Iraq.
In an interview with CNN's "Your World Today" program, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, acknowledged that parts of Iraq's Anbar province, an al-Qaeda stronghold, were under insurgent control.
"I believe that parts of Anbar are under the control of terrorists and insurgents," he said. "But as far as the country as a whole is concerned, it is the coalition forces, along with Iraqi forces, who are in control. But it's a difficult security situation that Iraq is going through."
Violence continued in Baghdad on Tuesday, with at least 27 Iraqis killed in attacks in the capital, police officials and witnesses said.
In the first attack, a minibus packed with explosives and parked on a street in eastern Baghdad blew up as a police patrol passed by, killing seven people, said Haitham Khalaf Ahmad, a police officer, as he stood guard at a nearby checkpoint.
Another car bomb exploded in Sadr City, a predominantly Shiite district in the capital. The bomb targeted another police patrol, killing nine people, police Maj. Qasim Nima said.
As the sun set, another bomb -- apparently planted in a motorcycle -- exploded in the Tunis district of northern Baghdad, in front of a Shiite mosque. The blast killed 11 people, al-Iraqiya television said.
Seven people were killed in Baqubah, a city 30 miles northeast of Baghdad that has been the scene of much violence between Sunni Arabs and Shiites.
Special correspondents Salih Saif Aldin, Saad al-Izzi and Bassam Sebti in Baghdad and Hassan Shammari in Baqubah contributed to this report.