Iraqis borrow suicide bomb tactics from Palestinian militants

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The Independent Online

The killing of four American soldiers in a suicide bombing in central Iraq yesterday came after it emerged that the US military has asked for, and received, advice from the Israeli army on tactics used in Palestinian cities.

The killing of four American soldiers in a suicide bombing in central Iraq yesterday came after it emerged that the US military has asked for, and received, advice from the Israeli army on tactics used in Palestinian cities.

Now it appears that Iraqis may have studied a tactic that Palestinian militants have used to devastating effect in Israeli cities: the suicide bomber in civilian clothes.

Within hours of yesterday's attack, a man threatened to blow up a British-owned bank in Beirut with explosives strapped to his body, in protest at the war in Iraq. A stand-off with police at a branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank eventually ended when the man surrendered after police agreed he could read a statement condemning the war to reporters.

Palestinians learnt the tactic of suicide bombing in large part from Lebanon, where it came to prominence following the Israeli invasion there. The most devastating suicide bombing against US troops outside America came in 1983, when a truck packed with explosives drove into a US Marine base in Beirut, killing 241 soldiers.

In Iraq, US and British troops are already unnerved by their uncertainty over which Iraqis are unarmed civilians and which present a threat. If there are to be more suicide bombings, they will only increase the pressure on American and British troops.

Meanwhile there was evidence yesterday that British troops may also have been been studying Israeli tactics in the occupied territories, when British forces encircling Basra staged an incursion that bore the hallmarks of Israeli tactics in Gaza. British forces have surrounded Basra, but have so far held back from a full attack on the city. But overnight British tanks broke into the city in an incursion in which they destroyed two statues of Saddam Hussein and, according to some reports, five Iraqi tanks. They also captured a leading Baath party official.

The Israeli army has not fully invaded and reoccupied Gaza, as it has Palestinian cities in the West Bank, fearing resistance and street fighting – exactly what the British want to avoid in Basra.

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