10 confess to bombing in Kuwait
Dec 19, 1983
KUWAIT - The government on Sunday accused nine Iraqis and three Lebanese in the U.S. Embassy and five other targets. Authorities say 10 of the men have been arrested, have confessed, and will be tried immediatly. On Iraqi remained at large and another, the driver of a truck full of explosives that rammed the embassy, is dead, authorities said. U.S. Embassy sources said four American security experts have arrived to assist with the investigation and interrogation of the suspects. The 10 will go on trial today before a state security court on charges connected with the wave of bombings in the capital of this Persian Gulf nation, said Abdel-Aziz Hussein, minister of state for Cabinet affairs. He told reporters the prosecutor general would demand the death penalty. Hussein said those arrested had "confessed they had plotted and carried out the explosions" Dec. 12 at the U.S. and French embassies, the airport control tower, the Shuaiba oil refinery, an electric generating station, and the el-Badaa residential area where many Americans live. He said four people were killed in the attacks, but a U.S. Embassy official says six people were killed, plus the truck-bomb driver. The minister said explosives, pistols, and detonators were found at three houses used by the accused. The weapons and bombs were smuggled into Kuwait concealed inside gas cylinders and fuel oil barrels. Hussein said the driver of the explosives-laden truck that smashed into the U.S. Embasst and exploded was Raad Aqueel al-Badran, an Iraqi. Hussein said he was killed in the blast, which destroyed a three-story annex. The men in custody had not formally been indicted Sunday. Sources said the charges to be filed against them would include murder, illegal possession of explosives and firearms, smuggling weapons into the country, and other unspecified crimes. Hussein declined to say if the defendants would be arraigned today, or if the trial would be closed or public. He said the defendants were members of the militant Al-Daawa Islamic party. Its leader, Mohamed Baqer Sadr, a Shiite Moslem, was executed in Baghdad four years ago following a series of riots in Iraq. Sources said all the suspects in the Kuwait bombings belong to the Shiite sect of Islam. Officals and pro-government newspapers have blamed the blasts on religious fundamentalism and a "new form of terror" in the Middle East. They have drawn parallels between Kuwait blasts and similar attacks Oct. 23 on U.S. Marines and French soldiers in the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Arab diplomatic sources said the Kuwait attacks were intended to discredit the United States and France and show that Kuwait's ruling Al-Sabab family as vulnerable. Asked to confirm the number of victims in the blasts, Huusein said, "only four persons were killed and 61 wounded ... all other casualty estimates were wrong." The toll included three dead at the U.S. Embassy, all non-Americans, and an Egyptian worker at the airport, he said. However, a U.S. Embassy official, who asked not to be identified, said two more bodies were later recovered from the rubble. The official put the death toll at seven, including the truck driver.
Questions remain: What is Islamic Jihad and what will happen next?
By RICHARD HARWOOD
Sep 21, 1984
WASHINGTON - The American Embassy bombing in Beirut Thursday left two troubling questions in its wake: 1. When and where will Middle East terrorists next strike against the United States? 2. Who or what is the Islamic Jihad (Islamic Holy War) organization that claimed responsibility for Thursday's tragedy and for the bombings last year of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marines headquarters in Beirut? The first question is not entirely hypothetical. Thursday's bombing followed a telephoned warning from Islamic Jihad on Sept. 7 that an attack on "one of the vital American installations in the Middle East" was imminent. This installation presumably was the embassy. One week later there was another call to Western news agencies in Beirut that identified still other targets. THE CALLER SAID Islamic Jihad was prepared to strike at major American cities and at U.S. facilities in Latin America and Europe. In a reference to President Reagan, the caller added: "You, governor of the White House, await a painful blow before your re-election, more painful than our blows against your embassy and your military headquarters in Beirut." Neither the Secret Service nor the State Department would speculate Thursday on the meaning or credibility of this latest threat. But it was not being ignored. The second question - the identity of Islamic Jihad - is also troublesome. One theory is that no such organization exists and that "Islamic Jihad" is merely a deceptive and convenient code name adopted by various telephone callers who make threats or claim credit for terrorist acts. Others believe the opposite, specifically that Islamic Jihad is a distinct terrorist group with international links to both Syria and Iran. There is, however, no irrefutable proof that this is so, which poses yet another problem for those in the United States and elsewhere who would like to retaliate for the Beirut incidents. Earlier this year, a team of reporters for the Washington Post assembled a great deal of circumstantial (but not foolproof) evidence linking the Marine and embassy bombing in Beirut and the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kuwait to both Syria and Iran. These links were cited Thursday night in a CBS-TV news report that the explosives used in the new bombing originated in Iran and were trucked overland to Syria where they were turned over to the terrorists. THE LINK BETWEEN Iran and the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kuwait last December was firmly established by Kuwaiti authorities. Some of the terrorists involved in the operation, as well as their weapons, entered Kuwait directly from Iran. U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources also think that the precise orders to carry out the attack were delivered by a courier from Iran. After the capture of those involved in the bombing, Tehran radio repeatedly demanded their release and threatened Kuwait with retaliation if they were tried and punished. The Kuwaiti investigation also revealed that the embassy bomber who died in the attack was a member of an Islamic sect, Al Dawa, which is based in Iran and has been linked - again, circumstantially - to the bombing of the Marine headquarters in Beirut. This connection centers on Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a Lebanese Shiite Moslem leader who, some years ago, founded the militant Hezballah (Party of God) in Beirut. He incorporated the Al Dawa sect into his party and, according to American and Lebanese intelligence authorities, gave a religious blessing to two terrorists the night before they set out to bomb the Marine headquarters. One of Fadlallah's followers and military allies is Hussein Musawi, who the intelligence authorities believe was also implicated in the Marine bombing. One of Musawi's cousins is said by these authorities to have been involved in obtaining trucks for the bombing and to be the active head of a group called the "Hussein Suicide Commandos." THE TIES BETWEEN these men, the Syrians and the Iranians are the subject of other reliable intelligence reports, which have implicated 14 individuals in the Beirut bombings of 1983. In addition to Fadlallah and the two Musawis, the 14 include a Syrian army colonel, a former security officer for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Syrian members of the Syrian-controlled Saiqa (Thunderbolt) PLO faction and veterans of other terrorist groups. The circumstantial evidence of the involvement of these people in the bombings of the Marine headquarters and the U.S. Embassy was substantial, the intelligence services said. But it was insufficient, according to one ranking intelligence officer, to make an ironclad court and was thus insufficient to support retaliatory strikes. Sheik Fadlallah, who is often linked to Islamic Jihad in press speculation, recently granted an interview on the subject to Samir Ghattas, an Associated Press reporter in Beirut. Fadlallah insisted to Ghattas that he has no connections with violence and said he was not convinced that the Islamic Jihad organization actually exists. "As an organization," he said, "we could not discover even 1 percent that it exists. It may represent only one thing. It may represent several structures using it as a cover. They could be Islamic ... or some people who want to give Islam the brand of terrorism." Those people, Fadlallah said, could be western intelligence agents or Lebanese Christians. LAST MONTH, ISLAMIC Jihad claimed responsibility for planting mines in the Red Sea. Fadlallah ridiculed that claim: "This organization must be immense with its sophistication that it mined the Red Sea and all world nations were unable to find a clue." The lack of unambiguous information about the Beirut bombers has been blamed, in part, on deficiencies in the American and Lebanese intelligence services. A recent study indicated that the CIA, in particular, has been making serious efforts to remedy some of these deficiencies by devoting more money and more people to the effort, by creating small "strike forces" that could respond to terrorist attacks and by establishing a center for evaluating intelligence on terrorism. But there is still no indication that either the CIA or other agencies have resolved the mystery of Islamic Jihad - who or what is or where or when it might strike next.
U.S. military: Iraqi lawmaker is U.S. Embassy bomber
POSTED: 1:05 p.m. EST, February 22, 2007
From CNN Correspondent Michael Ware
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man sentenced to death in Kuwait for the 1983 bombings of the U.S. and French embassies now sits in Iraq's parliament as a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition, according to U.S. military intelligence.
Jamal Jafaar Mohammed's seat in parliament gives him immunity from prosecution. Washington says he supports Shiite insurgents and acts as an Iranian agent in Iraq.
U.S. military intelligence in Iraq has approached al-Maliki's government with the allegations against Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, who it says assists Iranian special forces in Iraq as "a conduit for weapons and political influence."
Repeated efforts by CNN to reach Jamal Jafaar Mohammed for comment through the parliament, through the ruling Shiite Muslim coalition and the Badr Organization -- the Iranian-backed paramilitary organization he once led -- have been unsuccessful.
A Kuwaiti court sentenced Jamal Jafaar Mohammed to death in 1984 in the car bombings of the U.S. and French embassies the previous December. Five people died in the attacks and 86 were wounded.
He had fled the country before the trial.
Western intelligence agencies also accuse Jamal Jafaar Mohammed of involvement in the hijacking of a Kuwaiti airliner in 1984 and the attempted assassination of a Kuwaiti prince.
Jamal Jafaar Mohammed won a seat in Iraq's Council of Representatives in the U.S.-backed elections of December 2005. He represents Babil province, south of Baghdad, in parliament.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said officials are actively pursuing Jamal Jafaar Mohammed's case with Iraqi officials. Al-Maliki has urged American intelligence officials to share their information with Iraqi lawmakers, who could strip Jamal Jafaar Mohammed of his parliamentary immunity.
"We don't want parliament to be a shelter for outlaws and wanted people," al-Maliki told CNN. "This is the government's view, but the parliament is responsible. I don't think parliament will accept having people like [him] or others currently in the parliament."
The prime minister says the situation is embarrassing -- not only to his government but to a U.S. administration that holds up Iraq's government as a democratic model for the region.
Top U.S. officials, including President Bush, have accused Iran of meddling in Iraq by fomenting sectarian violence and providing arms to illegal militias. Bush has authorized U.S. troops to use deadly force against Iranian agents in Iraq to defend American or allied forces, and the administration's increasingly tough warnings to Tehran have raised concerns that the four-year-old Iraq war could spread.
Al-Maliki told CNN last week that the United States and Iran should stop using his country as a proxy battleground, accusing Iran of targeting U.S. troops in Iraq but saying he doesn't want U.S. forces to use Iraq as a base to attack Iraq's neighbors.
Saddam's Shi'a Lynch Mob
By ROBERT BAER
Thursday, Jan. 04, 2007
The cat is out of the bag. Thanks to images from a cell phone, we now know that the Iraqi National Police unit we turned Saddam over to was in fact a Shi'a lynch mob. Saddam's hangmen made no effort to hide their allegiance, taunting the deposed Iraqi leader with the name of radical Shi'ite cleric and power broker Muqtada al-Sadr. Afterwards, they danced around Saddam's corpse.
Saddam didn't hide what he thought about them either. At one point, he called them "Persians" — in other words, traitors — and his choice of insult was very revealing. Like Saddam, most Iraqi Sunnis view Sadr as all but a paid-up Iranian agent, and his militia, the Mahdi Army, as an Iranian creation.The Sunnis are convinced that one day, given the opportunity, Sadr will hand Iraq over to Iran. For all the shock Iraq's Sunnis felt on hearing Sadr's name shouted at Saddam's execution, Iranian diplomats might as well have been in attendance.
Just as consequential, for Sunnis and anyone else who knows Iraqi history, Saddam's executioners shouted the name of Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Muqtada's father-in-law. Ayatollah Sadr, whom Saddam executed in 1980, is perhaps as responsible as Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini for modern, resurgent Shi'a Islam. Sadr founded the Da'wa Party, a violent, secretive organization committed to the creation of an Iraqi Shi'a Islamic republic — and today a political party that counts none other than Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a member.
In 1979, Sadr and the Da'wa took the side of the Iranian revolution, sparking demonstrations and unrest across Iraq. After Sadr's Da'wa attempted to assassinate Hussein's longtime foreign minister Tariq Aziz on April 1, 1980, Saddam, in fairly quick succession, executed Sadr and invaded Iran. Saddam was convinced that unless he pre-empted Sadr — in other words, Iran — he would end up on the gallows. Two years later, in Dujail, the Da'wa did try to assassinate Saddam. Saddam's brutal retribution against Dujail is what got him hanged last Saturday.
The West had its own bloody experience with Sadr's Da'wa. In December 1983, Da'wa attacked the American and French embassies in Kuwait. The Da'wa was the core around which Iran created Lebanon's Hizballah, another violent Shi'a group that went on to kidnap scores of foreigners and hijack half a dozen airplanes during the '80s — long before it also became a political player in Lebanon.
Only time will tell us what Sadr intends do with Iraq if he ever does take over. But the Sunnis today will tell you they don't need to wait. On Saturday, they saw all the evidence they needed: the symbolism of executing Saddam on the Muslim High Holiday of Id al-Adha as a gift to the Shi'a, and and the decision of Maliki to get special approval from Iraq's senior Shi'a clerics, the "marja'iya," to carry out the execution on that day.
No one is ever going to take a poll, but it's safe to say that most Sunnis fear that Ayatollah Sadr's dream of an Iraqi Shi'a Islamic republic has already come true.
Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, is the author of See No Evil and, most recently, the novel Blow the House Down.