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Al Qaeda drugs Iraqis for suicide missions

rediff International Affairs Bureau | March 22, 2004 10:54 IST

Al Qaeda has recruited countless young Iraqis for suicide bombing missions, The Times, London, reported on Monday,

Osama bin Laden's lieutenants drug these Iraqis before they embark on their deadly assignments, the newspaper reported.

The Times said Al Qaeda is also moving drugs via Iraq's unpatrolled borders into Saudi Arabia. Funds obtained from the sale of these drugs bankroll the terrorism that has crippled Iraq in recent weeks. 

Iraqi police arrested recruits to Al Qaeda's cause last week, along with drugs worth $20 million (about Rs 900 million). Recordings of bin Laden's speeches were also seized in the raids. The Al Qaeda leader's sermons are used to entice young Iraqis to the 'cause.'

Iraqi police officials believe the drugs came from Afghanistan, where the Taliban ran a lucrative narcotics empire before it was overthrown in November 2001. Western observers have warned that drug cultivation in Afghanistan is on the increase since last year. The drugs were brought to neighbouring Iran and then smuggled into Iraq.

The Iraqi police believe foreigners -- rather than Iraqis -- were responsible for the horrific attacks in the holy city of Karbala. However, young Iraqis are believed to have participated in smaller murderous attacks.

'It's a long process to brainwash them,' one police officer told The Times. 'They seduce them with money, then start to use drugs on them until they are half conscious.'

Military officers from America's coalition believe there are as many as 200 cells of Iraqi terrorists, some of whom have links to Al Qaeda. There are fears that loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party have formed associations with Islamic extremists, though they have been hostile to each other in the past.

The next challenge for the Iraqi police and coalition forces is next month's festival of Arbaiyin, which is attended by the country's dominant Shia community.


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