11:52am , Saturday 18th August 2018

Generations of Iraqi females turn suicide under Al-Qadea influence

27 March 2012
Milad Jbouri

Amal, the young Iraqi girl, was transferred from the illusion of “holy matrimony” to a “suicide bomber in the making” after she was promised eternal life by her recruiters. Amal, who never made it past fifth grade due to her family’s poverty, started a romance with a youngster associated with “Al-Qa’eda”. He dropped her the minute he found out she was ‘pregnant’.

Amal’s only way out was to resort to a relative of the treacherous young man to convince him to marry her, but the woman sent her to a clergyman who collaborates with Al-Qaeda. He convinced her that the only way to atonement from her sin was to carry out a suicide mission against “the infidels”, through which she will preserve her and her family’s reputation and honor, and land her in heaven.

Amal belongs to the third generation of suicide bombers who fell victim to elements belonging to armed groups, according to a security source in Diala.  But she never made it to the “promised paradise”.  She is awaiting a sentence that could reach life in prison, after she failed to detonate her explosive belt late December, steps away from a military checkpoint, according to a security source in Diala.

Shahla’a, who was involved in an intimate relationship with an Al-Qa’eda element died at the hand of her father, who buried her hurriedly in the house backyard after he was certain she was going to carry out a suicide operation inside a religious congregation in the city.

The security official says that Shahla’s father told investigators that his daughter’s death and his potential prison sentence are much better than “dozens of people losing their lives to pay the price of a love story between a suicide bomber and an Al-Qaeda operative”.

Rania Al-Anbaki and Umm Al-Mo’minin have been in jail for years, and have gained wide reputation after the former appeared in a video footage tied to a steel barrier while explosives experts tried to dismantle them, and the latter in a video strip reciting her confessions about being a recruiter for “suicide bombers”.

In addition to Rania and Umm Al- Mo’minin, dozens of women spend their lives behind the bars for participating in recruiting suicide bombers, or attempting to carry out suicide bombings.  Twenty one operations by female suicide bombers resulted in killing 124 Iraqis and injuring 344 others, according to General Abdul Karim Al-Rube’i, who assumed the position of Diala operations director between 2007 and 2009.

The most potent operation was carried out among shoppers in the Buldroze area the beginning of May 2008, killing 33 civilians and injuring at least 60 others.

The Quadruplet of Revenge, Ideology, Ignorance and Poverty

Sociologists, clergymen, security leaders, prison wardens and separatists from Al-Qaeda, hold armed factions, especially Al-Qaeda, responsible for attracting women into the “web of soft death”, using them as time-bombs in the sectarian strife that overtook Iraq between 2006 and 2008.  None of the parties, however, misses the main reason why dozens of women join the suicide phenomenon: the quadruplet of revenge, an erroneous interpretation of the ideology, ignorance and poverty prevailing in Iraq’s small cities and villages.

The main motive is the “desire to revenge” the death or kidnapping of a husband, father or son.  This desire is amplified by extreme ideologies that prevailed unprecedentedly with the arrival of Al-Qaeda cells into Iraq simultaneously with the American invasion in April 2003.

The duet of extreme ideology and revenge, according to sociologists, found a nurturing and rapid-reacting environment; namely, the poverty and ignorance, which prevailed throughout the country as a result of the economic embargo imposed on Iraq since the army of the former president’s forces invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Official statistics show that about 30% of Diala residents live under the poverty line.  According to statistics, illiteracy has the same ratio among the population.  Unofficial statistics raise these percentages to 40% for poverty and about 45% for illiteracy. The larger ratio of  these figures belong to women, in a governorate where the ratio of women exceeds 55% of the total population of 1.4 million citizens.

A former local official describes the poverty situation of Diala, where the phenomena of women suicide bombers prevailed, as “catastrophic”.  Many peaceful peasants lost their sources of income when their orchards were turned into “training grounds” for Al-Qaeda elements, and continuously hot battlefields, strewn with explosive devices and fictitious checkpoints.

The local official, who refused to reveal her identity for security reasons, says: “seeing dozens of women in black, carrying vegetables on their way to the market on carts pulled by animals, hoping to make enough to feed the family was very common.” Women crossing checkpoints at the time was not a reason for suspicion, which led Al-Qaeda “emirs’ to utilize the “deprived women” and turn them into  “female suicide bombers”.

Psychological Disorders and Different Stories

Rania Al-Anbaki,  one of the “suicide project” members, admits that she provided a lot of false information to her interrogators throughout the last three years following her arrest while wearing an explosive belt.  Similarly, Umm Al-Mo’minin retracted previous confessions of recruiting 28 girls after saying that she succeeded in recruiting them to carry out suicide operations in various area of Diala governorate.

Deceit, multiplicity of stories and an attempt to conceal facts were noted to be the prevalent features of the confessions of 16 “prospective suicide bombers” or “suicide recruit”, or “collaborator” debated by this investigative reporter in the prisons of the Ministry of Interior, Justice and Labor.  But reconciling information provided by the suicide bombers with the records of the judiciary, denial and evidence witnesses, data from militants and expert opinion, reveals a lot of the true features of one of the most complicated and dangerous violence files in Iraq since 2003.

Suicide Bomber with a Penalty

Rania Al-Anbaki, who comes from a destitute family, denies that revenge for the death of her father and brother is the motive behind her wearing an explosive belt and going to a checkpoint.  Despite that, she did not stop referring to the fact that her father and brother were killed by “militants from another sect” in Abu-Saida area.

Security officials and confessions she made to investigators contradict Rania’s story.  Her father carried out a suicide mission in Abu-Saida, in which nine people were killed and others were injured.  Her brother also carried out an operation in one of the governorate’s cities. Her husband, Mohammad admitted belonging to Al-Qaeda, and received a 20 year sentence.

Rania, who gained weight and looks much better than what she looked like in the video when she was arrested, responded solidly every time this reporter asked her about how she was convinced to dun an explosive belt.  “I don’t know,” “I don’t remember.”  And with every piece of information she admitted in the investigation or on TV screens and was asked about, Rania would say: “I was lying, lying all the time.”

Rania provides a loose story about the details of wearing the belt, telling how her husband Mohammad gave her a lift to the house of two relatives, and waited in the room next door. She remembers nothing. Her relatives may have drugged her with a Falafel sandwich and fruit juice before installing the explosive belt on her.

Four lawyers are now defending Rania to reduce her sentence, which was passed on August 3 2009, to imprison her for 7 years from 15 after appeal.  One of these lawyers was appointed by the court. The three others were appointed by her husband.

Conflict in Numbers

The number of  female suicide bombers documented by General Al-Rube’i in the 21 operations falls short of 60 operations across Iraq during 2008 as documented by this reporter, based on testimony of security officials to news agencies, including Reuters, Iraq Voices and Nina.

Although the two figures are not identical with what was mentioned in Al-Qaeda data (77 suicide bombings of which 40 were in Diala alone), and statements by the US Army spokesperson (27 operations in all of Iraq during the first nine months of 2008), General Al-Rube’i sees that this “sounds understandable in light of the state of hysteria resulting from the widening phenomenon of female suicide bombers, and the security officials’ belief that any suicide bombing or the detonation of a booby-trapped car is a “suicide bombing carried out by a woman wearing an explosive belt.”

Agreement between the Ideology and the Belief

The first chapter of female suicide bombers in Iraq gained publicity when the Iraqi official television showed footage of two masked women threatening American forces advancing at the capital Baghdad of suicide operations to prevent them from advancing.  Websites of the dissolved Ba’th party mentioned that the suicide bombers carried out a double suicide bombing, killing a number of American soldiers, without referring to the city where the operation took place.

Outside Al-Ba’th statements, there was no indication of such an operation taking place.

Literature from Al-Ba’th, the ruling party in Iraq between 1968 and 2003, point at another Iraqi suicide mission carried out against American forces in the city of Suweira south of Baghdad. A prominent security official at the city, however, revealed to this reporter that the body parts found in the bombed area “were of a man who detonated inside a booby-trapped car,” pointing out that the “suicide” story was used by Al-Ba’th for “promotional” purposes.

The same issue (promotion) applied to the mission carried out in the village of Tal’afar close to the Syrian border, where 5 Iraqis were killed and 56 injured.  The mission, attributed by Al-Qaeda leader Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi (*) to a suicidal woman, turned out to be by a young man in his twenties, dressed as a woman, according to an official in the Tal’afar police.

Ignoring publicity spins, evidence documented by a prominent official in the Anti-Terrorism Directorate in Al-Anbar governorate shows that the first true bombing carried out by a female suicide bomber was in March 2004, when a woman detonated in the middle of US troops in the city of Haditha on the edge of Al-Anbar, the center of Al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamic organizations.  It is not known whether that operation resulted in any casualties.

After that, no suicide bombing by a woman was recorded in Al-Anbar until 2010, when a woman detonated her explosives inside the government compound in the middle of Ramadi, killing and injuring 31 people.

Al-Qaeda: From Hesitation to Adopting the Female Suicide Bombers Strategy

The time span between the first operation in Al-Anbar (March 2004) and Tal’afar alleged operation in (September 2005) is free rom any suicide missions by females, according to Fa’eq Al-Janabi, an expert in militant groups, who points out that this stage was one of heavy fighting among militant groups or with American and Iraqi troops.  Women had no role in these operations except as volunteers to transport arms or letters, or harbouring fighters.

The “dangerous transformation”, as Janabi calls it, started when Al-Zarqawi promoted, during the last quarter of 2005, the idea of “suicidal women” against the “cowardly man” in joining the fight in Iraq, after the theoreticians of Al-Qaeda avoided this religiously and socially “sticky” issue for years.

Al-Janabi believes that most researchers were unable at the time to connect between Al-Zarqawi using the “female suicide bombers” to attract more foreign fighters, and the sectarian violence stage which started five months after bombing religious sites in Samarra’a in February 2006.(*)

Importing and Exporting Female Suicide Bombers

Al-Zarqawi’s message was met with an unexpected response, according to an expert in militant groups.  At the same time when the percentage of Arab and foreign volunteers, who entered across the borders to join the fight with Al-Zarqawi increased, the phenomenon of female bombers entered a dangerous stage as no border officials restricted the movement of female bombers.

The first female bomber arrived in Iraq from Europe, Belgian-born Muriel Degauque (*), considered to be an important part of a wide recruiting ring by radical militants in Europe to support Al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to Mohammad Al-Askari, a spokesman in the Ministry of Defence, who refers to arresting a radical group in Holland, which was training “female suicide bombers” from Belgium and France for the purpose of sending them to Iraq.

Degauque, the blonde Belgian, or Maryam, as she called herself after converting to Islam, detonated her explosive belt against an American patrol in the city of Ba’qouba on November 9, 2005.  This coincided with the more aggressive step by Al-Qaeda; namely, the export of female bombers from Iraq.

This strategy was evident in the bombings carried out on November 9, 2005 in a Amman hotel by two Iraqi suicide bombers, including Sajida Al-Rishawi, whose belt failed to detonate. At least 60 people, mostly guests of a wedding party, died at the hotel bombing. The couple were part of a four-member gang that carried out three simultaneous terror attacks on hotels in the Jordanian capital.

Prior t that operation, three brothers of Sajida Al-Rishawi’s, currently awaiting her execution, had carried out suicide missions inside Iraq, including her brother Thamer Al-Rishawi, who was Al-Zarqawi’a right arm.

Generations of Female Suicide Bombers

If the features of the first generation of female suicide bombers disappeared in the “publicity” statements of Al-Qaeda after 2003, the second generation of female bombers was clearer, and carried out brutal attacks, most of which were against security centres and civilian areas, promoting terror in all Iraqi cities.

Sheikh Saleh, a man in his forties who fought against Al-Qaeda with Al-Sahwa forces for years, describes how the “second generation” of female suicide bombers appeared.

Sheikh Saleh recalls that at the beginning, this generation was “ideological” – absorbing the doctrines of Al-Qaeda, to the extent that many female bombers were taken by the idea of connecting with the “hero fighters” who left their nations to join the duty of Jihad on the soil of Iraq.

Many Iraqis who joined AL-Qaeda, according to Sheikh Saleh, offered their young daughters or sisters to “emirs” of Al-Qaeda arriving from the Arab countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places..

Among these was Al-Zarqawi’s brother in law, who offered the latter to marry his sister so he can settle down in the city and concentrate on “fighting the infidels”, according to Sheikh Saleh.

The most prominent characteristic of this generation is that most female bombers were “wives of Al-Qaeda emires”, adds Sheikh Saleh, who points out that a substantial number of emir’s wives carried out suicide bombings after their husbands were killed, or died with their husbands, like AL-Zarqawi’s wife who died with him in an American air raid in June 2006.

The Generation of Dollars and Explosive Belts

The generation of emir’s wives and “ideologues” was followed, according to Sheikh Saleh, by a third generation that spread more widely.  The rising star of this generation coincided with the heightening of the sectarian struggle.  Most female suicide bombers who belonged to this generation were “minors” from very low social and cultural levels.  One of them is Rania Al-Anbaki.

The appearance of this generation was connected to the need for protection, or the desire to obtain money.  Sheikh Saleh describes how many families in Diala rushed to marry their daughters off to Al-Qaeda “emirs” as soon as they arrived at the villages, carrying dollars and explosive belts.

Suicide Bomber Battalions 

The story of female suicide bombers witnessed a number of transformations during the sectarian violence period.  During the middle of 2007, the phenomenon expanded to turn from individual to group recruitment.  During that stage, Al-Qaeda declared the formation of the first “suicide bombers battalion” in Iraq, named “Al-Khansa’a”, comprising 26 suicide bombers, most of whom were relatives of Al-Qaeda operatives, according to a high-ranking officer in the investigations department.

Another female suicide bombers’ battalion was formed in 2008 by the wife of Al-Qaeda chief in north Iraq, named (Umm Salamah).  This battalion spread around a number of Iraqi cities and circulated statements threatening with “revenge’ directed by dozens of wives and women who lost children and brothers in Al-Fallujah, Baghdad, Diala and Mosul.”  To date, nobody knows about the fate of Umm Salamah, but it seems that her battalion “actually carried out a number of missions in Diala and Baghdad,” according to the investigations officer.”

Female Suicide Bombers’ Training Camps 

A local official in Jallula’a, which suffered from a number of suicide attacks between 2006 and 2008, believes that female suicide bombers received their training on explosive belts in areas far from the control of Iraqi forces.  He notes that intelligence reports he saw, by virtue of his position, prove that over 25 suicide bombers were being trained until the summer of 2008 in detonating explosive belts in the caves of Tall Humrain north of Diyala.

The chief of Diyala operations, however, underplays the importance of prior training.  He believes that using an explosive belt does not require real training.  In most cases, “the woman wears, or is helped to wear the belt by a member of her family, and is taught how to push the detonator button.”  The operations chief notes here that “pushing the detonator button” does not bother Al-Qaeda.  Most missions were carried out by remote control carried out by a person entrusted with following and observing the assigned bomber.

Faris Al-Obaidi, a social researcher does not go too far from General Al-Obaidi’s idea.  He sees that most girls who joined the suicide bombers’ battalions had “prior combat experiences they gained from the family itself.”

Al-Obaidi supports his idea in that most of those he met among Al-Qaeda women told him that they used to listen at the dinner table to their fathers and brothers who are members of AL-Qaeda. They talked about “the details of battles fought by men, and how they transported and timed explosive devices,” and sometimes made them manually inside the house.

Recruiting Strategy

Abu Osama Al-Iraqi, who separated from Al-Qaeda, believes that the organization used his control over his Iraqi followers, who were poorer and less educated.  This way, the organization succeeded in encouraging these people to convince the family women to carry out suicide missions.

Abu Osama reveals that the recruitment process was done by spreading extremist ideas in the minds of targeted women, and depriving them from all communication tools that may help them find out what is happening outside the boundaries of the village.  During that time, adds Abu Osama, it was not allowed for most village dwellers to have a television set or internet, which were considered taboos.”  The last stage of the recruitment process required repeatedly reciting Koranic verses that encourage Jihad, repeat stories about Jihadist fighters who were companions of the Prophet Mohammad, and women who made their families proud by carrying out suicide attacks against the infidels in many Iraqi cities.

Al-Iraqi notes that a woman with an explosive belt crossing a checkpoint easily invited Al-Qaeda to release some of its emirs to carry out recruitment activities at the beginning, before distributing these functions to women specialized in recruitment.

The most prominent of these emirs were Arab fighters brought by the former regime to Iraq on the eve of the American forces entering the country in 2003, including Abu Layla Al-Souri, Abu Abdallah Al-Daudi and Abu Mu’taz Al-Libi.  These disappeared immediately after the regime fell, but soon came back to the forefront after Al-Qaeda declared the birth of the Iraq Islamic State in 2006.

Abu-Abdallah Al-Saudi, according to a prominent security official in Diyala “was the personality known best for recruiting women suicide bombers.  His fate is yet unknown, but it is possible that he left Iraq between 2008 and 2009 when Al-Qaeda started to crumble as a result of the military operations against it.”As for the others, according to the security official, they all died after succeeding in recruiting dozens of female suicide bombers.”

In the beginning, Arab recruiters became active in areas such as Al-Miqdadiah, Dalli Abbas, Ba’qouba, Bahraz, Jalloula’a and Qurrat Tabba.  Most young girls, according to the former police chief, were recruited in these areas after being compelled to marry Al-Qaeda elements before becoming suicide bombers, whether by conviction or through threats to kill the father or members of the whole family.

The issue was not restricted to direct recruitment of women.  Another method relied on recruiting young, mentally retarded girls, as happened in the dual bombing in a poultry market in New Baghdad area.  It turned out that the suicide bombers were mentally retarded, and their explosives were detonated from a distance.

The operation was followed by an investigation which led to the detention of the manager at Al-Rashad Hospital for Mental Diseases, according to the spokesman for Baghdad Operations, Qassem Atta. He said then that the arrest was made on the basis of information about the collaboration of the hospital manager with Al-Qaeda.  Later on, it was clear that a number of the hospital patients actually disappeared without being reported.

Suicide Bomber Recruiters: Influential Women

The recruiters’ banner moved from the “Arab emirs” to influential Iraqi women, who are mostly, as Osama Al-Iraqi says, old or middle-aged women. Some of them were known for their connections with murders or human trafficking before hooking up with armed groups.

This contradiction in approaches is explained by a security official in Diala governorate, who specialized in tracing women violence files in the governorate.  She says that “money coming from prostitution or illegitimate trade, turned into “Islamic” money, paid by Al-Qaeda emirs to recruit suicide bombers inside the poor areas.”

Diala operations chief says that the issue of recruiting women at that stage turned into what resembles “brokerage.” The women doing the recruiting, in most cases, split the revenue with the suicide bomber’s family.

But this does not cancel, according to the security official, the fact that many suicide bomber recruiters were true believers in armed operations, or were pushed by revenge for the death of a son or a husband.

The woman in her fifties, known in Katon area (in Ba’qouba) as the “mother of martyrs”, insisted that “anyone who does not join Al-Qaeda to fight the infidels is an infidel,” and pledged openly to wear an explosive belt and detonate herself in an infidel group of civilians, once she is absolutely sure that her five sons completed suicide missions against “infidels”.

Nobody knows if this woman did carry out her mission or capitulated, because she disappeared since then, according to the residents of Katon area, who also talk about another woman in the area, who left her Iraq husband and married an Emir from Al-Qaeda who arrived from Syria, then detonated herself in the city market after succeeding in recruiting a number of young suicide bombers.

Umm Al Mo’minin

All attempts by this reporter failed to stop the most infamous female suicide bombers’ recruiter from crying after she started to tell her “new” story about accusing her of recruiting 28 suicide bombers, who carried out suicide missions in popular markets, checkpoints and civilian areas.

Umm Al Mo’minin, who retracted her confessions previously broadcast on television, said that the accusation of “recruiting suicide bombers” was a lie started by “hateful” people who tried to blackmail her in order to buy the family house at a cheap price.  She does not remember who these people were, yet she remembered, during an interview the names of all the young girls she said she recruited for suicide bombings.

The secret behind remembering all these names, according to her, is that they are all still alive, and that they will attend the court to prove her innocence from accusations she had to admit under torture.

The fifty years old woman was completely calm and collected as she named eight “fictitious suicide bombers” she summoned to court.  She sounded confident that the presence of these women will most certainly change her sentence from “life’ to “release from jail”.

A prominent security official in Diala governorate does not share the optimism of Umm Al Mo’minin. The names she mentioned during the initial rounds of interrogations were of women who actually carried out suicide missions.  The official explains Umm Al Mo’minin’s confidence in innocence in that she manipulated the content of her confessions in every interrogation session.  This is what most Al-Qaeda operatives normally do, as they are trained in this type of contradicting confessions, but have never succeeded in misleading the judiciary.

The Girls of Iraq

An official in the “Girls of Iraq” organization, established towards the end of 2007 to mitigate the phenomenon of “female suicide bombers” believes that female suicide bombers succeeded in compensating for the absence of Arab recruits since the beginning of 2009.  Yet they were unable to continue recruiting more female suicide bombers as a result of a decrease in sectarian conflicts during that year, compared with 2006 – 2008.

The official, who refused to reveal her name for security reasons, says that the American military formed a counter movement titled “Girls of Iraq”, which succeeded in balancing the odds with the “female suicide bombers.”  While recruiters managed to penetrate homes using various methods to convince young girls whose relatives were killed to carry out suicide missions, the “Girls of Iraq” carry out counter activities, summarized in analysing recruitment cases and contributing to undermining suicide bombings before they take place.

The official points out, in this respect, that her organization; “Girls of Iraq”, succeeded in diagnosing a number of suicide networks.  She expressed optimism that the end of years of sectarian violence will contribute to deprive female suicide bomber recruiters from the means to convince young girls to join again in the suicide bombing phenomenon.

Researcher Al-Obaidi agrees with the idea presented by the official in “Girls of Iraq.”  He also sees that the end of civil strife closed the road to Al-Qaeda and decreased its abilities to use the judicial file to continue its recruitment activities.

Al-Obaidi warns, however, that women left behind by Al-Qaeda men may turn into ticking time bombs, unless the state takes the initiative to implement real and effective rehabilitation programs. He calls for utilising moderate religious leaders and tribal traditions prevailing in most Iraqi cities to fortify women against ideas that may lead them to join the suicide bombers if civil strife returned to Iraq. In this context, Al-Obaidi points that some Iraqi tribes provided safe havens to repented suicide bombers or were working at re-incorporating them into society without informing the authorities, in order to protect the reputation of these tribes.

A high-ranking officer at the Investigations Directorate of Salaheddin Governorate describes the process of containing a number of repented suicide bombers as the most successful means to confront the female suicide bombers phenomenon. Conservative tribal traditions and efforts by moderate religious men in the governorate have succeeded in convincing suicide bombers to repent.  The female suicide bombers phenomenon in Salaheddin Governorate was restricted to the only mission carried out by “Suhayla”, the suicide bomber in October 2008.

On November 17, 2008, the US military declared that 18 suicide bombers from Al-Qaeda surrendered to the authorities after local clergymen and relatives succeeded in convincing them to give up the idea of suicide bombing.

The statement did not reveal, at the time, the name of the city where the surrender took place, saying that a pledge was signed for reconciliation with their tribes.

A prominent security leader in Diyala governorate, however, believes that the female suicide bombers phenomenon may have receded over the past two years.  It is most certain, however, that it will return the minute relations among the Iraqi society components worsen, as a result of current political strife

The security chief says that intelligence information shows that dozens of female suicide bombers remain outside the light circle, or did not have the chance to carry out operations over the last period.  These women may be “sleeping cells” that may wake up again if the government did not work at improving the economic and educational reality of the country very soon.

A researcher at the women prison said that “potential suicide bombers” have a human side as well, that was lost in the midst of the mayhem, and nobody remembers it again.  Each female suicide bomber “was once a wife or a lover, led by the sectarian conflict, poverty, hunger and ignorance behind the bars.”  The researcher mentions the rosy dreams she heard resonating constantly among suicide bombers.  They are mostly concerned with hopes to be out of jail and to return to normal life, and to connect with a lover and settle down in simple homes full of children.

Rania Al-Anbaki herself mentioned a similar rosy dream.  She believes the court will rescind her life sentence and let her loose, to meet again with her husband, who is spending a 20 year sentence, after he proves his innocence.

Whether Rania Al-Anbaki’s dream comes true or not, statistics show a major decrease in the number of suicide bombings carried out by women.  This is attributed by researcher Al-Obaidi to the general improvement in the security file, and the relative improvement in the job market in most areas that witnessed the expansion of the female suicide bombers.

The latest figures point out that the number of bombings carried out by women receded from 60 operations in 2008 to five in 2010, most of which could not be conclusively traced to women bombers.

Until the first half of 2011, security forces records did not document any confirmed case of a female suicide bombing.

This investigation was carried out under the supervision of colleague Mohammad Al-Rubai’e, in cooperation with ARIJ

Frames annexed to the Investigation Report

Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi

His real name is Ahmad Fadeel Nazzal Al-Khalayleh (1966 – 2006).  He was born in Zarqa, Jordan (25 Kilometers north east of Amman). He travelled to Afghanistan in the 1980’s to fight the Soviet Union forces there. He spent 7 years in jail after his return to Jordan, and was released after a Royal pardon in 1999.  He travelled to Afghanistan again, and then to Iraq after the US invasion in 2003.

Al-Zarqawi established “Monotheism and Jihad”, and was appointed by the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama Ben Laden as the chief of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.  Al—Zarqwi declared himself and his organization responsible for most suicide bombings in Iraq after 2003, and the organization aired videos of many slaughters it carried out.  He planned the worst bombing his own country, Jordan, sending three male and one female Iraqis to carry out triple bombings that killed 60 people in three Amman hotels in November 2005.

Al-Zarqawi was killed in June 2006 in an American air raid on his headquarters in the village of “Arab Shoukah” near Habhab (18 kilometers) north west of Ba’qoubah, the center of Diala governorate; the main headquarters of Al-Qaeda organization in Iraq.

Samarra’a Bombings

The bombing of the holy tombs in Samarra’a (125 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad), carried out by Al-Qaeda on February 22nd 2006 represented the start of “civil dissent” that pervaded throughout most Iraqi regions, killing tens of thousands of Sunni and Shi’ite Iraqis, comprising wide sectarian displacement operations that the government could not contain until the end of 2008.

The period between 2006 and 2008 was termed “the sectarian war”, “the civil war” or “the sectarian violence”, but the Iraqis continue to summarize it with the term: “the days of sectarianism.”

Muriel Degauque

She is a Belgian suicide bomber (1967 – 2005) who converted from Catholicism to Islam when she was in her thirties.  She wore the Niqab, after marrying Issam Gauris, whose father is Belgian and mother is Moroccan.  He was well-known to the Belgian police for his long beard as an Islamist fundamentalist and militant.

Degauque and her husband crossed the Iraqi Syrian border and carried out a suicide bombing on November 9, 2005, in which she died and an American soldier was injured.

Sajida Al-Rishawi

She is an Iraqi suicide bomber who participated in one of the three bombings targeting hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman, killing 60 people.

Al-Rishawi survived after her explosive belt failed to detonate inside one of the targeted hotels, while her husband was killed when he detonated the belt he was wearing in the operation.  Al-Rishawi was handed the death sentence in February 2007, but the sentence has not been carried out.

Widad’s Ideological Life

The story of Widad, a 17-year-old suicide bomber, a relative of suicide bomber Rania Al-Anbaki and her cell-mate, personifies the quadruplet of revenge, ideology, ignorance and poverty perfectly.

Widad, whose parents married her off when she was 13 years old to an emir from Al-Qaeda, who carries a Saudi nationality and graduated from a religious university there, comes from a radical family that joined Al-Qaeda early.  She adopted the “anti-infidel ideology” under influence from her husband and brothers, three of whom carried out suicide bombings against security centres and civilian areas, resulting in the death and injury of dozens of “infidels.”

Widad’s mother (N.K.) undertook, for a substantial period of time, the recruitment of female suicide bombers in Diyala area, before an arrest warrant was issued in her name.  She fled to an unknown place, according to the records of intelligence departments in Diyala governorate.

Interrogator records reveal another face to Widad’s story.  She is the mother of two little girls who lived in jail while she was serving her sentence. Widad confessed during early interrogation sessions, according to the women prison director that she agreed to marry the Saudi Al-Qaeda emir against a dowry of “blessing her suicide bombing”, and that the promised mission was cancelled by the husband because of her early pregnancy with her first daughter. Her second daughter was born while she was in jail.

The radical ideology that Widad follows, her desire to avenge the blood of her “suicide bomber” brothers, the destitution of her female suicide bomber recruiter mother, her poverty and her radical social traditions pushed her in the end to join the ranks of suicide bombers.

The “Orphan” Salaheddin Mission  

Soldier Mahmoud Faris, one of the survivors of the suicide bombing carried out by Suhayla, the 21 year old bomber in Salaheddin governorate, describes the moments of horror he and his colleagues experienced on the morning of 18 October 2008.

Faris recalls how she approached the checkpoint he was manning.  A tall woman wearing the Niqab and carrying a plastic bag, trudged towards the soldiers, asking directions to the City Hospital.  She did not stop, however, although the soldier repeatedly told her that the hospital was in the other direction.

At that moment, Faris says he saw a wire hanging from the neck-side of her garb.  He immediately knew that the woman was rigged, and shouted: “Suicide bomber”, scrambling quickly towards the concrete barriers, and starting to shoot at her.  She fell to the ground, and immediately detonated.

Investigations later revealed that Suhayla, the bomber came from a family whose members joined Al-Qaeda from early on.  An authoritative source in the Salaheddin operations leadership who provided this information said that need and the seclusion circumstances she had suffered from may have pushed her to carry out the operation.  After her brothers were arrested and her husband and one of her brothers were killed at the hands of an anti-Al-Qaeda group, Suhayla had to work in mud-brick making to support her five children and the children of her brothers who were killed or jailed, or joined the fight with Al-Qaeda. Her father recalls that his daughter suffered a great deal because people shunned her and her profession, because her family is connected to Al-Qaeda.  “We used to live in dire poverty during the months that preceded the operation.  We had no money to live off,” adds Suhayla’s father, who describes his fellow citizens as hard-hearted because they made their life difficult and pushed her to committing her suicide mission.

Diala: The Safe Haven of Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda chose Diala governorate, which extends from the border line adjacent to Iran in the east to the outskirts of Baghdad in the west, to be its safe haven after withdrawing from Al-Anbar governorate as a result of the tribal and military blows it received there.  The trend for violence, radical ideology, poverty and ignorance were all there when Al-Qaeda crowds arrived into Diyala in 2006, according to General Abdel Karim Al-Rubai’e, who was in charge of Diyala operations at the height of the sectarian violence.

The Girls of Iraq

It is a political organization that was established in 2007 with support and financing from the US military.  It succeeded in deterring a number of attacks attempted by suicide bombers.  The Daughter of Iraq do not reveal their identities in most cases, although they spread around checkpoints wearing the Niqab, performing their duties of searching women, instead of men who cannot search the bodies of women, according to tribal traditions.

Al-Sahwa Councils

Al-Sahwa Councils were established for the first time in Al-Anbar governorate in western Iraq in 2006 to stand up to Al-Qaeda control over many areas in the governorate.  The experience was transferred to other governorates such as Salaheddin, Diyala, Ninawa and some areas in the capital Baghdad.  Al-Sahwa, mostly led by tribal leaders fought alongside Iraqi forces, and together they succeeded in expelling Al-Qaeda elements from Al-Anbar at the beginning, and then most Iraqi cities.


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