Interview With Phony Suicide Bomber Tests Credulity
Written by Katin for IPCRESS Blog
The “Professor Death” article appeared in TIME Magazine a year and a half ago, and remains one of the slickest, most shameless pieces of Anti-Arab propaganda delivered by the Establishment Press. According to the news hounds at TIME, Abu Qaqa al-Tamimi (aka “Professor Death”) heads an elaborate “ring” of suicide bombers and their handlers. Supposedly, most suicide bombings in Iraq can be traced back to Tamimi and his group. In this candid interview with TIME reporters, Tamimi explains the responsibilities of a Suicide Bomber Handler as well as some of the day-to-day duties such a job entails.
Huh?? Did your WTF Meter just go off? First of all, any TIME reporter in Iraq is embedded with some military unit. They’re MILITARY reporters and they do not simply go barnstorming around the Iraq landscape poking around for “suicide bombers” and terrorists. We have to wonder just how these guys managed to track down such a shadowy figure to begin with, and once having discovered him, they were able to stick to their strict code of journalistic integrity and not give his name and location to the military. Even though they’re WORKING for the military, it’s simply expected that they will keep this information secret. It’s also bizarre that Professor Death–a key player in this suicidal campaign against the Infidel–was able to trust TIME reporters not to give him up. TIME agrees to give him a pseudonym in the news article and to only photograph him while he is masked. That was right neighborly of them. It’s amazing that these guys from TIME were able to gain this person’s trust so quickly. It’s also amazing that TIME Magazine was able to find such a key terrorist functionary with apparent ease, while his whereabouts still eludes military investigations.
“al-Tamimi’s identity, background and job description are backed up by members of several other Iraqi insurgent groups that claim to have used his deadly services.”
Hahaha!! The Professor Death story is backed-up by interviews with other insurgents. That’s just great. It’s just gotta be true.
The story not only tries to validate the existence of suicide bombers, but it goes on to make the insurgents appear as cold-blooded political opportunists:
“one day, when the Americans have gone, we will need to fight another war, against these jihadis. They won’t leave quietly.”
Professor Death doesn’t seem religious at all, yet exploits the religious beliefs of those who come to him. He enjoys sacrificing non-Iraqis who come seeking martyrdom. He’s a real meanie, that’s for sure. During the interview he says that he tries to avoid civilian casualties when he plans these attacks, yet TIME Magazine is quick to point out:
“According to the “Rand Terrorism Chronology,” which tracks suicide bombings in Iraq, attacks on U.S. military targets are relatively rare”
Ummm… like “non-existent.” This would have been a prime opportunity to ask Professor Death why there were over 250 assualts on civilian targets in 2005 by his people. Don’t these guys even TRY to attack US military installations?
Ugghh… I can’t even get that far into this ridiculous story. No doubt, many American readers lapped it up. Hell… Professor Death even allowed reporters to take a picture of him so… he’s just GOTTA be real! And speaking of pictures of suicide bombers, I do hear from people about how these “future martyrs” are seen in American magazines, often brandishing the tools of their trade. Such as:
Ummm…. am I really supposed to believe shit like this? Are these “official” Suicide Bomber uniforms? And, I like how they have the Koran opened to just the right page (the one about the 72 Virgins, no doubt) for their terrorist photographer. Alright…. on with the show. Here’s the whole article. Enjoy. –K
Professor of Death
“Daddy, I want to be a martyr. Can you get me an explosive belt?”
When Abu Qaqa al-Tamimi’s 9-year-old son asked for his help in becoming a suicide bomber, he was, to say the least, taken aback. “This is not what you expect to hear from a little boy,” says al-Tamimi, an Iraqi man in his late 40s with close-cropped hair and a thin beard lining a round face. “I didn’t know what to say.” The son had even come up with a proposed target. “There was an American checkpoint near his school, and he said, ‘They won’t suspect me because I’m a kid, so I can walk right up to them and explode the belt.'”
Like other Iraqi parents, al-Tamimi frets about the emotional toll on his child caused by the daily onslaught of suicide bombings. But al-Tamimi bears a personal responsibility for his son’s bizarre ambitions. For the past 13 months, al-Tamimi has played a crucial, and murderous, role in the Iraqi insurgency: he is one of a small number of operatives who provide would-be suicide bombers with everything from safe houses to target information and explosives. Al-Tamimi says he also acts as a guardian, religious guide and all-around father figure in the final days of a bomber’s life. “Once a volunteer is placed in my care,” he says, “I am responsible for everything in his life until the time comes for him to end it.” Al-Tamimi is often the last person bombers talk to before their deadly mission. He is so proficient at facilitating suicide bombings that he says his own brother and sister have asked to be considered for “martyrdom operations.” He gave them some basic training but advised them to find other, less drastic ways of serving the insurgency. “A suicide bombing should be the last resort,” he says. “It should not be a shortcut to paradise.”
Handlers like al-Tamimi are usually anonymous and almost never claim responsibility for their part in suicide operations. But the terrorism that has plagued Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein would not have been possible without men like al-Tamimi, who says he organizes attacks for several insurgent organizations, ranging from hard-core jihadis like Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda operation in Iraq to more obscure Iraqi nationalist groups. “These are the guys who supply the intel and networks,” says the Rand Corp.’s counterterrorism expert Bruce Hoffman. “They are the terrorists’ trump card–and our Achilles’ heel.”
Al-Tamimi met with TIME in two interviews spanning five hours. He agreed to meet with us after members of the TIME staff approached Iraqi contacts who are close to the insurgency, in an effort to gain information on the ways in which suicide-bombing networks operate. Although he discussed his life and work in intimate detail, he refused to be identified by his real name, choosing a pseudonym that is an homage to a warrior from early Islamic history. Al-Tamimi says he has helped coordinate at least 30 suicide bombings since September 2004. Although he discussed three attacks at some length, he provided verifiable details for only one, an attempted assassination of an Iraqi general in Fallujah in June, in which the bomber killed three Iraqi soldiers and two civilians. However, al-Tamimi’s identity, background and job description are backed up by members of several other Iraqi insurgent groups that claim to have used his deadly services. His comments provide a rare glimpse into the recesses of Iraq’s insurgency and reveal the diversity and sophistication of the rebel networks intent on plunging Iraq into violent chaos. As the U.S. and the interim Iraqi government seek to peel factions of the insurgency away from one another, al-Tamimi’s association with multiple groups that have disparate agendas is an indication of how widely suicide bombings have been embraced as the insurgents’ primary weapon.
Despite Al-Tamimi’s years of military service with Saddam’s Republican Guard, his burned-brown skin and callused hands mark him as a farmer. He speaks in a high, breathless schoolboy voice, gesticulating animatedly with his hands while his eyes bulge in excitement. As a Republican Guard officer, a messenger for Saddam in the early months of the insurgency and a prisoner in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, al-Tamimi has developed networks that spread wide. “Many people in the insurgency know me,” he says with obvious pride, “even if they have never met me.” His standing in the insurgency allows different groups to send him their would-be bombers, confident that he can be entrusted with the most sensitive missions.
When he is contacted by an insurgent group for a suicide operation, al-Tamimi says, the deal can go one of two ways. Some groups have a specific target in mind, even a specific timeline; others seek his advice on the best time and place to attack. To cover both bases, al-Tamimi constantly gathers intelligence on the most obvious targets: police stations, checkpoints, restaurants favored by Iraqi security forces, government ministries, roads used by U.S. military convoys and patrols. “My job is to know how I can get a bomber to the best spot for an attack, at a time when he is sure to inflict the most damage,” he says. For instance, when scoping out a police station, he notes the timing of shift changes, “because if you attack then, you get the most casualties.”
Al-Tamimi won’t reveal how insurgent groups get their bombers to him, but once they arrive, his first job is to set them up in a safe house. He maintains several in Baghdad and elsewhere in the Sunni triangle. There the bomber is provided with everything from food and clothing to religious texts and inspirational music. Since the bombers are usually religious fanatics, they may ask for spiritual guidance. “In their last days, these men are usually thinking of God and paradise,” he says. “Sometimes they like to hear about the rewards that are awaiting them.”
Most of the more than 30 bombers he says have passed through his hands were foreigners, or “Arabs,” to use al-Tamimi’s blanket term for all non-Iraqi mujahedin. Although he says more and more Iraqis are volunteering for suicide operations, insurgent groups prefer to use the foreigners. “Iraqis are fighting for their country’s future, so they have something to live for,” he explains. He says foreign fighters “come a long way from their countries, spending a lot of money and with high hopes. They don’t want to gradually earn their entry to paradise by participating in operations against the Americans. They want martyrdom immediately.” That’s a valued quality sought by a handler like al-Tamimi, says counterterrorism expert Hoffman: “It’s one less thing for the handler to worry about–whether the guy is going to change his mind and bolt.”
While the would-be martyr keeps a low profile, al-Tamimi arranges for the explosives; he knows how to get his hands on explosive belts or bomb-laden cars. Belts are more complicated, he says, since they may need to be custom-made to a bomber’s size. All the time, al-Tamimi fine-tunes the plan, scoping out the target over and over, to prepare for any eventualities. He will check and recheck his information and adjust the plan to any changes–in convoy routes and timing, for instance. He may even do a dry run of the operation himself to be absolutely certain.
When the plan is set, al-Tamimi says, he takes the bomber-to-be to the target area some days ahead of the operation, to help him become familiar with the surroundings. He will show the bomber side streets and alternative routes to the destination and sometimes will drive a pilot car well ahead of the bomber to check for any last-minute changes in the target area. Sometimes al-Tamimi will videotape the climax of the operation on behalf of the bomber’s sponsors. He enjoys documenting these final moments in the lives of the bombers, he says, “because they will one day be part of Iraqi history.”
Al-Tamimi’s own story mirrors the transformation of the insurgency over the past 2 1/2 years. After the U.S. invasion, he says, he joined some like-minded friends and used his military experience to attack U.S. supply convoys on the roads to Baghdad. But he soon realized it was futile. “The Americans had advanced weapons and helicopters so small groups like mine couldn’t hope to make much of an impact,” he recalls. Then, two weeks after the fall of Saddam’s regime (but before his capture), al-Tamimi says he received word from the man he still calls “al-Rais”–the President. “He sent a messenger to me with a simple question: ‘What do you need?'” says al-Tamimi. Saddam’s offer of help was followed by deliveries of cash and weapons. “He said, ‘Widen your network; go around the country and find others who will fight,'” al-Tamimi says. “He said that we had to attack the Americans from different angles so they would not be able to settle in Iraq.” He made contact with insurgent groups in the Sunni triangle and around Baghdad. He also helped set up Jaish Mohammed (Army of Mohammed), a group of Baathists and ex-military men.
In November 2003 al-Tamimi was arrested by U.S. forces and tossed into Abu Ghraib on the outskirts of Baghdad, where, he says, he endured forms of torture similar to those displayed in the infamous photographs from the prison–including being chained at the neck and dragged around like a dog. While these claims cannot be verified without knowing his real name, al-Tamimi showed TIME scars on his leg that appeared consistent with lashing by electrical wires. He also says the stint in prison made him more religious. By the time al-Tamimi emerged nine months later, Saddam had been captured and the nature of the insurgency had changed: the Baathist networks, including al-Tamimi’s group Jaish Mohammed, had in some cases joined forces with Islamic extremist organizations. Rejoining the leadership of the group, al-Tamimi initially used his skills in explosives to supervise its use of roadside bombs against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Although he doesn’t say how and why he segued into handling suicide bombers, his experience in making alliances and connections made him a natural for the role.
But his turn toward suicide bombings has come at a moral cost. In his conversations with TIME, al-Tamimi initially gave no signs of any internal anguish over sending young men off on suicide missions. “What I do serves my country, and what they do serves my country,” he said. But he grew uncomfortable when the discussion turned to the victims of suicide bombings: scores of innocent Iraqis have died in terrorist attacks perpetrated by men whom al-Tamimi openly boasts to have trained. “I have always tried to avoid civilian casualties,” he says. “I always try to attack the American military.” It’s an implausible claim. According to the “Rand Terrorism Chronology,” which tracks suicide bombings in Iraq, attacks on U.S. military targets are relatively rare, but there have been more than 250 assaults on civilian targets in 2005 alone, killing more than 2,400 Iraqis and injuring 5,200 others. Pressed, al-Tamimi says angrily, “Civilian deaths are regrettable, but when you are in a freedom struggle, it sometimes happens.”
Al-Tamimi talks breathlessly about the religious fervor and iron determination of the young men sent to him. He cites the example of his current charge, a Saudi barely past his teens who arrived in Baghdad early this month. “You can’t imagine how excited and happy he is,” al-Tamimi says. “He can’t stop smiling and laughing, even singing. He is sure he is going to paradise, and he just can’t wait.” But al-Tamimi’s dealings with jihadist groups have left him suspicious about their long-term goals in Iraq. “I’ve had many conversations with them, and I keep asking, ‘What is your vision?'” he says. “They never have a straight answer.” He fears they want to turn Iraq into another Afghanistan, with a Taliban-style government. Even for a born-again Muslim, that’s a distressing scenario. So, he says, “one day, when the Americans have gone, we will need to fight another war, against these jihadis. They won’t leave quietly.”
In the meantime, he is focusing on more immediate matters. He has told his son that he is too young to become a martyr but says he recently taught the child how to make roadside bombs and how to fashion a rudimentary rocket launcher out of metal tubes. (He also gave TIME a propaganda video, in which he and two other adults teach a group of four children how to jury-rig a pair of artillery shells into a bomb.) “We have to prepare the next generation for battle,” he says. “We have to realize that the fight against the Americans might last a long, long time.” So long as men like him continue to send their young to die, that prediction may well come true.