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02 March 2004

Latest Bombings in Iraq Follow Terrorist Zarqawi's Script

Coalition Provisional Authority briefing, March 2

The execution of two nearly simultaneous suicide bombings in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Karbala March 2 during Shia Islam's Ashura holy days point to terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi as a "chief suspect," a U.S. spokesman says.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations for the Combined Joint Task Force 7, in a press briefing with Coalition Provisional Authority Adviser Daniel Senor, said "certainly one of the chief suspects in this would be Zarqawi, just by the methods ... [and] the techniques that have been used in the past: ... suicidal, spectacular, [and] symbolic." At least 143 were killed in the attacks, with 430 or more wounded, Kimmitt said. The Baghdad attacks occurred at the al-Kadhimiya mosque.

Senor said that in talking with members of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) about the attacks in relation to a Zarqawi letter about terrorist strategies, "two items in the letter ... jumped out at them, which led them to believe that Mr. Zarqawi or affiliates of Mr. Zarqawi or individuals of his ilk may have been involved in this."

First, Senor said, is Zarqawi's "detailed strategy for provoking sectarian warfare, ethnic warfare in this country." Secondly, Senor said, "Zarqawi specifically references that the greatest threat to al-Qaeda, its affiliates, [and] foreign terrorists coming into this country is the path to Iraqi democracy." As Iraq moves closer to democracy, Senor said, the Zarqawi letter says the terrorists will lose their pretext and excuse to perpetrate attacks.

"And certainly when you have events like we've had over the past few days, where the Iraqis take an enormous step forward in their path towards a sovereign democracy, which is the drafting and finalization of ... the interim constitution that will govern affairs for them in a democracy -- that's a significant step forward, and certainly the kind of event and the kind of progress that the terrorists would seek to derail," Senor said.

"[Y]ou cannot ignore the significance of [Zarqawi's] letter when you consider how clearly it lays out a plan and then you see that plan being executed, and when we, at the same time, believe in the authenticity of the letter and believe that its author is Mr. Zarqawi," Senor said.

Since a three-day period of mourning has been declared in the wake of the suicide bombings, Senor was asked whether the ceremony planned for March 3 to sign the interim constitution would be delayed. He said "the Governing Council has made no formal plans, as a collective, to change tomorrow's [March 3] event. ... They have indicated to me that they will make an announcement tomorrow [March 3] as for the plans for the signing ceremony."

In spite of these latest attacks Senor said, "the process for handing sovereignty over to the Iraqi people is still on schedule. ... Implementation of that process, ... will not be delayed."