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An Iraq suicide bomber is a man in woman's garb

August 13, 2008|Tina Susman | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — Insurgents, who have increasingly turned to women to stage suicide bombings, on Tuesday used a man dressed as a woman in a failed assassination attempt on a provincial governor, the U.S. military and witnesses said.

The target, Gov. Raad Tamimi of Diyala province, escaped unharmed. But at least one other person was killed and several were wounded when the bomber's vest exploded near the governor's convoy.

The use of the man in disguise appeared designed to give the attacker easier access to his target.

It was the second suicide bomb attack in two days in Baqubah, the capital of Diyala. On Monday, a 15-year-old girl blew herself up, killing one Iraqi police officer.

Witnesses said the bomber Tuesday was foiled by Iraqi soldiers stationed along the route. U.S. Army Maj. Margaret Kageleiry said the soldiers shot at the bomber, which caused him to detonate his vest prematurely.

Iraqi officials said two civilians died and nine were injured. The U.S. military said one civilian was killed and nine people were wounded.

Tamimi, the governor, said the bomber was walking on the sidewalk but headed into the street as the convoy neared.

"He tried to head toward us but we were careful, because suicidal attackers are common in Diyala," Tamimi said, adding that everyone had believed the bomber to be a woman because he was wearing a long, flowing traditional abaya.

The military warned months back that Al Qaeda in Iraq was finding it harder to recruit men and had turned to women to stage suicide attacks. At least 28 women have carried them out this year, according to U.S. Army figures, compared with seven last year.

Initial reports identified Tuesday's bomber as a woman, but the military said it had determined the attacker to be a man dressed as a woman.

Women have been responsible for some of this year's deadliest attacks, including a pair of market bombings in February in Baghdad that killed more than 90 people.

Saja Quadouri, a member of the security committee of the Diyala provincial council, attributed the sharp increase in female bombers to several things. Some women are seeking to avenge the deaths of family members, she said.

"If they had a father or husband killed, they will be ready to kill anyone just out of revenge, even if they have to die themselves," Quadouri said.

She also said many of the bombers are unstable because they have been forced by insurgents to marry Al Qaeda in Iraq members and bear their children. Shunned by society and deprived of freedom, they are easily exploited as suicide bombers, she said.

And finally, Quadouri noted, women, particularly pretty ones, are often allowed to pass unhindered through security checkpoints manned by Iraqi soldiers and police, who are virtually all male.

Diyala has long been a stronghold of Sunni Muslim insurgents, and several U.S. offensives have failed to pacify the area. The latest attacks occurred in the midst of an Iraqi-led offensive, which began last month. On Monday, Iraq's government called a temporary halt to the offensive to give insurgents a chance to put down their weapons. It said operations would resume Friday.

In addition to the insurgency, the province is facing internal strife over a dispute between its council and police chief Maj. Gen. Ghanim Quraishi. Council members accuse Quraishi, a Shiite Muslim, of sectarianism and abuse of power against Sunni Arabs, who constitute most of Diyala's residents. The council voted Monday to fire Quraishi.

"If Quraishi did his job well, we would not be in need of the security operation," Quadouri said.

Also Tuesday, the military announced the death of a U.S. Marine in the western province of Anbar. Attackers shot the Marine to death Sunday.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

Times staff writer Saif Hameed and a special correspondent in Diyala contributed to this report.

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