January 21, 2008: Suicide bombing at Iraqi funeral

On this day in 2008 a suicide bomber apparently targeting a senior security official blew himself up inside a funeral tent, killing 18 people

NORTH OF BAGHDAD, IRAQ – Is it just me or does a suicide attack at a funeral strike you as odd?

Suicide terrorism is something we all have become all too familiar with. It is a relatively new phenomenon by the way. I am not saying that it was a non-occurrence in ancient or even somewhat-less-than-ancient history but it really began to take off in the 1980s (both Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE – and Lebanon’s Hizballah perfected the technique).

It must take a special individual to sign up for a suicide operation. This is, after all, one job you ain’t coming back from. Is there a ‘profile’ for such a person? I have no idea (I suspect not just as there is no ‘profile’ for a terrorist).

In the Islamist terrorist world potential candidates are told that they will attain jannah (paradise) if they die for the ’cause’. Yes, yes, there are the 70 virgins too but a much more appealing, and less talked about bonus, is that you will be able to have 72 of your relatives join you in Paradise when they die.

Burying a successful suicide bomber is problematic since there may not be enough left to bury (although I have heard that the head is often intact: it actually ‘pops’ off the body apparently). Still, there is a need to have some kind of ceremony I suppose.

So I guess bombing a funeral is simply being efficient?

On this day in 2008

A suicide bomber apparently targeting a senior security official blew himself up inside a funeral tent, killing 18 people and wounding a further 22. There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing in Hajaj, a village 250 kilometres north of Baghdad, but police said it bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda (AQ).

Witnesses said about 70 people were inside the tent when the attacker set off his explosives soon after entering.

Later, I returned to the tent when I heard the voices of the wounded begging for help. There was chaos everywhere, but we managed to carry out the dead and the wounded.

Awad Jassim, a 25-year-old labourer hired to make tea and coffee for mourners

There is often a debate over whether to give dead terrorists a proper funeral. In this case, if the decision was to go ahead, at least they were in the right place to bury him.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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