CIA `backed Iraqi bombers'

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The United States gave financial backing to an Iraqi opposition movement that planted bombs in Baghdad and other cities, killing more than 100 civilians, according to a key member of the group.

Abu Amneh al-Khadami, the chief bomb-maker of an Iraqi party, called the Iraqi National Accord, says that he planted car bombs and other explosive devices in Iraqi cities.

The US has long admitted funding covert operations in northern Iraq, spending $15m (pounds 10m) last year. Other Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein say the Iraqi National Accord Party is sponsored by the CIA. This is confirmed by Abu Amneh who says a phone call from Washington got him out of jail last year, enabling him to start his bombing campaign. He quotes his superior officer as expressing the fear that "the Americans will cut off financial aid to us".

His disclosures come at an embarrassing moment for the US, which has just attended a high-profile summit in Egypt hammering state-sponsored terrorism. A follow up meeting is planned for later this week.

In the Middle East, condemnation of Iran for supporting Hamas suicide bombers in Israel will be seen as hypocritical if there is no mention of the US role in Iraq.

A senior member of the Iraqi opposition says: "More than 100 civilians have been killed by the bombs in Baghdad in the last three or four years." He added that the bombers had "zero concern" for civilian casualties.

Abu Amneh gave his testimony about the bombing campaign in Baghdad in front of a video camera at his headquarters in the Kurdish city of Sulaimanyah, northern Iraq.

His motive was that he has not been paid for operations already carried out, as well as fears that he was being betrayed by his superior officer.

To justify his conduct he sent copies of the video to Iraqi leaders abroad, one of whom passed it on the Independent, saying he was disgusted by the feckless violence it revealed. Abu Amneh explains in detail how he obtained the explosives and timing devices. He complains at one point that he had received only $1,000, although "we blew up a car and we were supposed to get $2,000."

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