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Al Qaeda Blows up Iraq’s Churches on Way to...


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Al Qaeda Blows up Iraq’s Churches on Way to Vatican

DEBKAfile Special Report Citing also DEBKA-Net-Weekly

August 2, 2004, 12:21 AM (GMT+02:00)

Al Qaeda’s assault on Iraq’s Christian churches – the first attack suffered by the Christian minority since the fall of Saddam Hussein – underlined the seriousness of the threat al Qaeda’s al Masri Brigades issued against Italy that very morning, Sunday, August 1 in the London Arabic publication, al Quds al-Araby. It also coincided with the heightened terror alert declared in New York, Washington DC and New Jersey, prompted by very specific intelligence that al Qaeda was plotting attacks on prime US financial institutions and companies, including Wall Street.

The coordinated car bombing attacks in Baghdad and the northern town of Mosul, quickly condemned by the Vatican, precisely targeted five of the mainstream Christian minorities’ places of worship – Armenian, Catholic and Chaldean. At least 15 were killed and many more injured in explosions that rocked the two Iraqi cities. The threat to Italy is addressed to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and gives him 15 days to withdraw his troops from Iraq or endure attack. Operational squads were already roaming through Rome and other cities primed for action, according to the published warning.

Other reckonings behind the Iraqi church offensive were less discernible:

Al Qaeda is furious over what it sees as the treachery of its Iraqi Baath, Sunni Muslim allies, who are engaged in secret negotiations first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly on July 23 as follows:

Since the first week of July, the Bush administration has been immersed in a secret, high-wire diplomatic exercise aimed at bringing down the level of Iraqi insurgent attacks on US troops, or perhaps halting the violence altogether, by coming to terms with the enemy. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources report exclusively that the initiative is being carried forward by a prominent non-Iraq Arab figure as intermediary on behalf of the highest White House echelons. His identity is top secret for reasons of security. (Our editors have his name but promised to preserve his anonymity in return for this exclusive).

All that can be said at this time is that the intermediary is not based in Iraq; he goes over for delicate negotiating sessions in the Bush administration’s name with Baath guerrilla leaders, militia commanders and heads of the great Sunni Muslim tribes and clans. At all times, he is in direct communication with the White House.

The only three Americans in Iraq privy to this negotiating track are Robert Blackwill, the president’s senior adviser on Iraq, US ambassador John Negroponte who is not personally involved, and the commander of American forces in Iraq, General David Casey, who is in charge of security arrangements and any changes on the ground arising from progress in the talks.

The only two Iraqis kept informed are prime minister Iyad Allawi and deputy prime minister for security Salih Barham.

DEBKAfile adds: the negotiating track began with a preliminary condition: Baath and Sunni leaders must undertake to disengage from al Qaeda and other foreign Arab fighters.

On Sunday, the fundamentalist terror organization was at pains to demonstrate its power to torpedo any deal the Baath-Sunni side might strike with Washington by ever-more horrendous terrorist attacks against Iraqis to put paid to any chances of stabilizing the country. Neither the Americans nor prime minister Iyad Allawi would manage, moreover, to evict the terrorist group from the country. Al Qaeda was in Iraq to stay.

The fundamentalists were cracking the whip to punish their Iraqi allies for another unforgivable sin: the new guidelines the Baath leadership recently issued guerrilla commanders, which stressed that the Baath rather than al Qaeda was the driving force of the anti-US insurgency and, furthermore, that the nature of the struggle was national rather than religious. Al Qaeda was not denied a role in the struggle, the commanders were told, only a say in charting Iraq’s future.

Al Qaeda had no intention of letting the Baath get away with this; Sunday it unsheathed its claws against fellow Iraqis partly to put the Sunni Baath in its place

As to its next steps, we stand by the DEBKAfile report published on March 13, 2004, two days after the great Madrid train blasts in which 200 were killed:

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror experts emphasize that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist movement makes no secret of its plans, priorities or motives. They are all laid out - in English too – in a plethora of print and internet publications. While difficult reading for Westerners, who find it hard to take the florid phrasing and outrageous aspirations seriously, such publications are the daily fare of tens of millions of Muslims around the world, almost in the same way a daily newspaper may be part of an ordinary Westerner’s routine.

According to data gathered by our experts, from December 2002, three months before the US invasion of Iraq, al Qaeda began issuing a stream of fatwas designating its main operating theatres in Europe. Spain was on the list, but not the first.

1. Turkey was first. Islamic fundamentalists were constrained to recover the honor and glory of the Ottoman caliphates which were trampled by Christian forces in 1917 in the last days of World War I.

2. Spain followed. There, al Qaeda set Muslims the goal of recovering their lost kingdom in Andalusia.

3. Italy and its capital were third. Muslim fundamentalists view Rome as a world center of heresy because of the Vatican and the Pope.

4. Vienna came next because the advancing Muslim armies were defeated there in 1683 before they could engulf the heart of Europe.

Italy has been warned before and on Sunday, August 1 it was warned again, although it is not alone: the United States is constantly in al Qaeda’s sights.


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