Saturday, May 14, 2005

Iran hard-line volunteers undergo training for suicide attacks in Iraq, Israel

By Ali Akbar Dareini

TEHRAN, Iran – More than 200 young men and women presented themselves Thursday as volunteers to carry out suicide bomb attacks against Americans in Iraq and against Israelis.

The meeting was organized at Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, by the Headquarters for Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, a shadowy group that has sought volunteers for attacks in Iraq and Israel since last year.

It was the third such ceremony that the group has held, but there has been no independent confirmation any of its volunteers has carried out a bombing.

Most of those attending Thursday's meeting, half of them women, were members of the Basij militia, a hard-line paramilitary group, and have already had military training. But the movement says it provides more training for suicide attacks.

The movement's spokesman, Mohammad Ali Samadi, told the audience that the volunteers were preparing for "martyrdom attacks against occupiers of Palestine, the assassination of (British author) apostate Salman Rushdie and attacks against occupiers of holy places (in Iraq)."

The volunteers, who chanted "Allahu akbar" – "God is great" – and "Death to America," wore white shrouds symbolizing their willingness to die and headbands with the slogan "There is no Allah but the Almighty." No weapons or explosives were visible at the ceremony.

The two previous such ceremonies – in December and April – each had 200 volunteers.

The Iranian government has distanced itself from the organization, but the group has occasionally used buildings belonging to semi-official hard-line organizations. Certain hard-line lawmakers and some commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards have spoken in support of the movement.

The volunteers were given metal name plates to identify them after they've carried out attacks and presented wills to Samadi. They refused to show their will to reporters.

One woman, who only gave her first name Zahra, said a "sense of obligation" encouraged her to leave her family and become a suicide bomber.

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