Friday, August 08, 2003


And this reporting offers many possible theories as to the "why" behind the action.
A powerful car bomb detonated this morning in front of the Jordanian Embassy here, propelling shrapnel across a crowded sidewalk and blowing a gaping hole in the compound's wall. Hospital officials said 11 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the attack, the largest and deadliest in the Iraqi capital since U.S. forces captured it in April.

Three hours later, attackers set off a bomb under a U.S. Army Humvee elsewhere in Baghdad and then sprayed the vehicle with gunfire from a nearby building. Two U.S. soldiers were injured, and a fierce firefight ensued along a busy commercial street, with Americans taking cover behind electronic goods stacked on the sidewalk.

The attacks transformed two of Baghdad's most placid and prosperous neighborhoods into scenes of carnage and conflict on scales unseen here since the three-week U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein's government. The attacks appeared to demonstrate that insurgents in Iraq have graduated to more sophisticated weapons and tactics.

Although car bombs have been a favored weapon in the Middle East, they have not been used to major effect in Iraq since the U.S. troops entered the country. In addition, "soft" targets such as embassies and hotels have not been in the sights of anti-American fighters, who have largely directed their assaults at U.S. military personnel and Iraqis working with them.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, blamed the embassy bombing on "professional terrorists" and said it was the largest attack against a non-military target since Hussein's government collapsed on April 9...

Among neighbors and other Iraqis at the scene, there was rampant speculation that the attack was the work of an organized group. Some argued it was perpetrated by Hussein opponents out of anger that Jordan's leader, King Abdullah, last week granted asylum to two of Hussein's daughters, Raghad and Rana. But others insisted that it had to have been the work of pro-Hussein forces who believe the daughters were lured to Jordan with the complicity of the U.S. government.

Another theory was that the attackers were seeking to settle scores with Abdullah's government because of its decision to allow U.S. Special Operations forces to enter Iraq from Jordan during the war. Before the invasion, Jordan had been one of Iraq's closest trading partners and the recipient of highly discounted Iraqi oil.

After the blast, a mob of Iraqis stormed into the embassy and tore up a portrait of Abdullah's father, King Hussein. Some people at the scene said that was done out of anger that Jordanian Embassy guards allegedly shot at Iraqi rescuers after the explosion.

U.S. officials have been increasingly concerned about the prospect of large terrorist attacks conducted by Islamic militants who are members of or linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Although Nantz said he had not received any intelligence reports stating that the Jordanian Embassy was a possible target, Jordan has earned the ire of al Qaeda because Jordanian security services have worked closely with the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies in pursuing members of the terrorist group.

Whatever the cause, I think it is fair to mark the calendar that this day we learned of a well organized, well funded, professional terrorist organization operating in Iraq.

Not good news.

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