March 29, 2003, 8:54 AM EST (AP)
IN THE IRAQI DESERT # A suicide bomber killed four Americans in an attack Saturday north of the city of Najaf, U.S. military officers said.
Capt. Andrew Wallace said the victims were part of the Army’s 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
The attack occurred at a U.S. checkpoint on the highway north of Najaf.
A taxi stopped close to the checkpoint, and the driver waved for help. The soldiers approached the car, and it exploded, Wallace told Associated Press Television News.
U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, confirmed the incident but had no additional details. Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart said that kind of attack was “a symbol of an organization that’s starting to get a little bit desperate.”
The suicide bombing was the first against U.S. and British forces since the invasion of Iraq began.
There have been warnings of suicide attacks in Iraq.
Iraqi dissidents and Arab media have claimed that Saddam Hussein has opened a training camp for Arab volunteers willing to carry out suicide bombings against U.S. forces in Iraq.
Terror mastermind Osama bin Laden also urged Iraqis last month in an audio tape aired on Arabic television to employ the tactic against the Americans. Other Arab militants also spoke about suicide missions against the invading armies.
Such suicide attacks are common by Palestinian militants in targeting the better equipped Israeli army during the uprising on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri was asked in a mid-March television interview, whether Iraq would use the tactic of suicide attacks against the invading American forces.
“We have prepared ourselves for all kinds of war. For many months, tens of thousands have volunteered to serve as martyrdom-seekers (suicide attackers) in the battle with the American enemy,” he said. “We trained them and readied them. We have prepared ourselves for street fighting and desert fighting.”
The biggest suicide bombing against the U.S. military abroad was in Lebanon when a truck packed with explosives drove into the U.S. Marine base at Beirut International Airport and exploded in the early morning Oct. 23, 1983, as the troops slept. The attack killed 241 American servicemen and leveled the base. Simultaneously, a Beirut base for French soldiers was attacked by another suicide bomber, killing 58 paratroopers.
The Americans and the French were in Lebanon as part of an ill-fated peacekeeping mission to end Lebanon’s civil war. Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militants were blamed for the attacks.
In 1996, a truck bomb at the U.S. Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia killed 19 U.S. servicemen.