The photo appearing with this article perpetuates one of the most atrocious terrorist crimes committed in the Iraq War.
On Tuesday, March 2, 2004, three million Iraqis and Iranians turned out in Karbala for the first time in three decades to observe the Ashoura festival commemorating the martyrdom in the year 680 of Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad.
That festival marked Iraq’s bloodiest day since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The victims – 185 dead, more than 550 injured – were all Shiite Muslim pilgrims.
Reporting this outrage on the day, debkafile wrote:
Three blasts killed 85 people in Baghdad in and around the Kazimiya shrine and nine explosions, caused by bomb cars backed by suiciders, grenades and rockets, left more than 100 dead in the shrine city of Karbala… According to some reports, 50-60 Iranian pilgrims died too. Shiite men, earlier flagellants, lined up at the hospitals to donate blood for the many wounded.
US president George W. Bush issued a message claiming two-thirds of al Qaeda’s key leaders had been captured or killed. Even if factually true, this claim is hard to credit on the day of two extensive and complex attacks that must have been in preparation for three or four months and called for a trained unit of some 200-300 participants with vast quantities of arms and explosives.
To this day, none of the perpetrators of this crime has been apprehended. Neither have any leads turned up to their identity. US intelligence experts could never agree on who was behind it – some claiming it was the work of Baathist underground guerrillas gunning for the Shiites; others pointed the finger at al Qaeda. The memory of this attack faded into the background of the constant violence preying on Iraq ever since.
But chief of Kurdish intelligence Kosart Rasul never gave up the hunt for the terrorists behind the March 2004 Ashoura massacres. Rasul became famous for leading the Americans to Saddam Hussein’s hideout and aiding in his capture. He also led the advance intelligence operations for the offensives in Najef, Baghdad and Mosul.
Two weeks ago, Rasul’s agents captured in Mosul several al Qaeda men who were accomplices in terrorist attacks carried out a year ago in the northern Iraqi city and in Baghdad.
The Kurdish intelligence chief personally interrogated the captives and finally obtained the truth he had been searching for.
The Ashoura outrages were orchestrated by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s front man in Iraq. To be sure of success, he decided not to use any of his men in Iraq. Instead, he sent messengers to his father-in-law Yassin Jarad who lived in Zarqawi’s own home town of Zarqa in Jordan. Jarad was told to round up 11 Jordanian suicide killers in the town.
In January 2004, they crossed the Jordanian-Syrian border and entered Iraq. In Mosul, they were trained in the use of explosive belts. Ahead of their mission, they were divided into two groups: seven were sent to Karbala, three to Baghdad.
The Karbala group was led by Zarqawi’s own father-in-law. They were under orders to blow themselves up one after the other at points well spaced among the millions of pilgrims to create a chain of blasts that sounded like a mortar barrage. The killers left behind them not a single identifying sign.
Zarqawi who moves freely between Iraq and Iran had no qualms about causing the deaths of dozens of Iranian pilgrims – any more than that of his own kinsman.