DOHA, Qatar – Saddam Hussein has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in case they invade Iraq, Arab media and Iraqi dissidents said Tuesday.
The dissidents, speaking by telephone from Jordan, said scores of Arab volunteers have gone to a special camp run by the Iraqi intelligence service near the town of al-Khalis, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Most of the volunteers are Islamic activists who belong to pan-Arab groups that maintain close ties with Saddam’s regime, the dissidents said on condition of anonymity.
The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite television station reported Saturday that a group of Arab volunteers was being trained in urban warfare in a camp near Baghdad.
Al-Jazeera said its Baghdad-based reporter had visited a camp, some 15 miles northeast of the Iraqi capital, and interviewed several Arab trainees, who said they were ready for “martyrdom,” a euphemism for suicide attacks.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States has no information that would corroborate reports of Iraqi intelligence training suicide bombers at camps northeast of Baghdad, or anywhere else.
Many Muslims believe that participating with Iraqis in a possible war against invading U.S. forces is a religious duty. However, many Muslim scholars say suicide is against Islamic teachings.
An Egyptian volunteer who identified himself only as Abu Abd al-Rahman said he traveled to Iraq secretly, leaving behind his wife and children, to join the camp. He told Al-Jazeera his venture was a “God-blessed martyrdom-seeking mission.”
“We seek God’s satisfaction. We seek victory first, and martyrdom in the cause of God second. You are well aware of what is happening against Iraq. This is clearly an injustice against an Arab, Muslim country,” he said.
Asked about his three children, Abu Abd al-Rahman said: “God will take care of them, and anyone who is taken care of by God will not be forgotten.”
Another volunteer identified as a Libyan called al-Sunusi told Al-Jazeera the volunteers hate the Bush administration, which he says, represents evil.
“I am not afraid. I am not afraid. I came here to carry out jihad (holy war) against the U.S. arrogance,” he said.
A Syrian mosque preacher who gave his name as Abu Izz al-Din said he came to Iraq to attain his “goal of martyrdom.”
“No nation can attain the weapon of martyrdom seekers, regardless of the technological and scientific advancement they might have,” he said. “The weapon of martyrdom-seekers is special to the Muslim nation. We will be able to confront them with this weapon, God willing.”
Diyar al-Umari, an Al-Jazeera reporter who said he visited the camp on a tour organized by the Iraqi government, described the volunteers as coming from a number of countries and political movements.
“The fighters here say that the weapons of the United States and Britain may be lethal, but they are martyrdom-seekers. In this case, they say, the U.S. forces may confront a case that is very unusual to them,” al-Umari reported. “Those martyrdom-seekers aspire to change the shape of the looming war.”
U.S. officials accuse Saddam of harboring weapons of mass destruction and have threatened to forcefully disarm him. The Bush administration also claims that Iraq maintains ties with radical organizations including groups with links to Osama bin Laden’S terrorist network al-Qaida.
Saddam rejects the accusations and any link with bin Laden or al-Qaida.