Officials Quash Rumors About Bombings in Iraq
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 3, 2004 Coalition officials in Iraq today struck down rumors surrounding the capture of would-be, failed bombers connected to the March 2 attacks that killed scores and injured hundreds of Shiia pilgrims in Baghdad and Karbala.
Senior coalition spokesman Dan Senor and Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, addressed the rumors at a Baghdad news conference.
Kimmitt said the night before the explosions, a car approached a checkpoint in Basra, and several people jumped out and ran away. It was treated as a car bomb and soldiers conducted two controlled explosions to neutralize it, but in the final analysis it turned out to be a hoax, Kimmitt said.
Other reports of people being captured wearing explosive belts, placing explosives on roads or tossing grenades from rooftops haven't checked out, Kimmitt said.
"We also had heard through the rumor mill that there were a number of women picked up. That turned out to be false as well," the general told reporters. "I think all these other reports that you may have heard, none of them have really borne out to be consequential."
The general gave reporters updates and clarifications on the bombings.
Iraqi police reported that three suicide bombers detonated explosives: two at the gates and one inside the al-Kadamiya mosque in Baghdad, Kimmitt said. The police apprehended two people, both of whom were later released, he added.
The Karbala attack, Kimmitt said, comprised a suicide bomber in the city center, explosive-laden pushcarts on roads, and possible mortar rounds fired from nearby. He said one explosion happened in the city center, with multiple explosions three to four miles away.
People in the crowd pointed out 15 people who might have been involved in the Karbala attack, and they're being held for questioning by police and coalition forces, Kimmitt said. He added that 10 are believed to be Iraqis.
Senor said the Iraqi Governing Council postponed a signing ceremony for the country's interim constitution out of respect for the families in mourning after the attacks. But he quickly added the attacks will do nothing to derail the process of Iraqi sovereignty turning back to the Iraqi people June 30.
"What we are trying to do here, and (are) working with the Iraqi leadership in doing, is building a sovereign, democratic Iraq," Senor said. "It would be one of a kind in the region, and if we are successful, it will send a very direct message to the terrorists and they recognize this, and they recognize the stakes are very high for them.
"Nothing will defeat the terrorists and their cause more than our success in building a sovereign and democratic country here that improves the lives of its citizens," Senor continued. "And it'll put an end to the scapegoating. It'll put an end to the blame game. It'll do more to turn back the cause of the terrorists than anything else we do."
Senor held up a copy of a letter fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi wrote to leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist organization, intercepted with the capture of the courier who was carrying it.
"It's exactly what (Zarqawi) says, over and over and over: that once the Iraqis are successful in building their democracy, the terrorists will lose their pretext; they will lose their excuse."