BAGHDAD, Iraq—The suicide bomber who killed 22 people and injured dozens hugged his comrades goodbye and asked that God welcome him as a martyr before he detonated the deadliest the explosion to date on a military base in Iraq, according to a chilling video released on Sunday.
The bombing killed 22 people, including 18 Americans. Officials believe a suicide bomber dressed in an Iraqi National Guard uniform detonated himself inside the camp's mess tent.
On Sunday, however, a top Iraqi Army commander told The Associated Press that his investigation has determined that the bomber wasn't a member of the Iraqi National Guard, despite wearing a Guard uniform. Instead, Iraqi Armed Forces' Chief of Staff Gen. Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari suggested, the bomber bought the uniform illegally.
In an interview, Zebari said, "certainly he (the bomber) was not a member of the National Guards because all of our men stationed in the base have been accounted for."
The two-minute video, posted on a Web site used by Islamic extremists, purportedly shows the attackers preparing the day before and the attack unfolding at Forward Operating Base Marez in the northwestern Iraqi town of Mosul.
It also shows someone using a bayonet to point out buildings on a map of the base. There's a mark to indicate the mess hall where the bomb exploded at lunchtime.
The tape begins with three men sitting in front of a banner for the Iraqi militant group the Army of Ansar al Sunna. The man sitting in the center reads a statement, saying the group carried out the attack to strike "fear in the hearts of the crusaders and their apostate lackeys," naming President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
In his statement, the man identifies the attacker as Abu Omar al Museli and asks God to accept him as an Islamic martyr. The men embraced the suicide bomber before cutting to video of a faraway shot of the mess tent.
According to the timer at the bottom right of the screen, a huge fireball rose from the tent at 12:03:58. Fire zips down the one side of the metal poles holding up the mess tent.
In the final shot, someone is driving past blue and white blast walls that surround the base, and zooms in on a hole left by the explosion.
It was unclear where the video was made, but at least part of it appeared to be shot from outside the base. While he hasn't seen the tape, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, an American military spokesman, said filming outside a U.S. base isn't prohibited.
U.S. military officials announced earlier this week that Brig. Gen. Richard Formica would lead an investigation into how a suicide bomber penetrated the base. That investigation would include obtaining any necessary information from Iraqi officials, said Capt. Joseph Ludvigson of Task Force Olympia, the Mosul-based U.S. military force.
Ludvigson said he hadn't heard about Zebari's finding, but said "it strikes me as speculative."
In other developments, a senior Iraqi policeman was assassinated and two of his bodyguards were injured in southwestern Baghdad on Sunday. The policeman was headed to work, said Col. Adnan Abdul Rahman, a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry.
A sedan with three gunmen blocked the car of Brig. Gen. Yaseen Ibrahim Jawad, a commander of the Baghdad civil defense force. The men then attacked Jawad's car. His bodyguards were transported to Al Yarmok Hospital, where they're being treated.
(Youssef reports for the Detroit Free Press.)
(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.