BAGHDAD(Reuters) – An al Qaeda claim on Friday that Iraqis carried out a triple suicide bomb attack in Baghdad raises troubling questions over whether more locals are joining a deadly campaign dominated by foreign militants.
"The suicide attacks on the Green Zone were conducted by followers from the land of the two rivers (Iraq). May God grant them entry to paradise," said an al Qaeda statement posted on a Web site a day after Thursday”s abortive attack.
Three militants attempted a multiple suicide strike on an entrance to Baghdad”s Green Zone government compound on Thursday. The attack involved a bomber in a car and two on foot.
One was captured and his accomplices were the only fatalities, a rare victory for Iraqi security forces.
It was not immediately possible to verify the al-Qaeda claim.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said the captured man was from another Arab state but did not comment on the other two.
"A car blew up. It was chaos. A soldier shot a suicide bomber there," said a soldier on Friday, pointing to deep shrapnel marks on a cement wall hit in Thursday”s attack.
If Iraqis mounted the attack, it raises questions over the ability of foreigners to recruit local human bombers for a campaign posing the biggest security threat to Iraq.
Even if the bombers were not Iraqis, the al Qaeda statement suggests the group was keen on recruiting more Iraqis to carry out suicide attacks that have already killed thousands.
Iraqi suicide bombers are rare. Most of the attacks are carried out by militants from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen.
Nine suicide bombers struck across Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 23 people and wounding 100, police said.
There are already signs that suicide bombings, seen by militants as a fast track to heaven, have some appeal to Iraqis, even after decades of secular rule enforced by the iron fist of toppled leader Saddam Hussein.
Before blowing himself up three weeks ago, Yasser Jumaili told his parents to hand out chocolates to celebrate his martyrdom, relatives said.
Jumaili, in his mid 20”s, rammed a car packed with explosives into a U.S. military target near Falluja, where a major American offensive in January was designed to pacify the area.
Three Iraqi militants interviewed by Reuters said that they had opposed al Qaeda in the past because of its "extreme" views but were ready to join ranks with it to end the U.S. occupation.
"We did not agree with al Qaeda before. But now I am ready to blow myself up because the Americans killed my brother," said Abdullah, 25, an Iraqi militant from Falluja.
A 50-year-old Iraqi militant said more and more Iraqi men were responding to al Qaeda”s calls for Jihad.
"We were opposed to al Qaeda”s extremism. But now we will do anything they want to end the occupation," he said.
Suicide bombings are a sensitive subject among many Iraqis, who say only foreign extremists are capable of such attacks, which have killed more than 100 people at a time.
"I can”t talk about this matter. It is too dangerous," said a cleric allied with radical Shi”ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia fought two major battles with Americans but relied on AK-47s and mortars, not human bombs.