Desperate militants using women for attacks, analyst says

With joint US-Iraqi military operations pushing extremists out of their strongholds and limiting their activities, Iraqi militants are growing desperate and have increasingly resorted to training women to become suicide bombers, an analyst said on 2 February.

[Read this report in Arabic]

“The pressure on these militant groups forces them to come up with other methods to penetrate stiffened security measures, such as involving women in fighting, which is a religious taboo,” said security analyst Hussein Sabah al-Dulaimi.

“Because of Muslim cultural sensitivities, women can be excellent candidates for suicide attacks [in places] where there are no female security guards,” said al-Dulaimi, who is also a professor of strategic studies at the University of Anbar.

“Most Iraqis are conservative Muslims who believe that physical contact is forbidden between women and men who are not related by blood or marriage. As a result, women are often allowed to pass through male-guarded checkpoints without being searched,” he added.

''Because of Muslim cultural sensitivities, women can be excellent candidates for suicide attacks [in places] where there are no female security guards.''

Disabled women used

The latest attack involving women happened on 1 February when at least 99 civilians were killed and up to 200 wounded in separate suicide bombings in two pet markets in Baghdad.

Iraqi officials, who requested anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the press, said the suicide bombers were two mentally disabled women with Down Syndrome. They had been wearing belts carrying 15 kilograms of explosives, which were detonated by remote control – leading to speculation that the women may have been unwitting accomplices to the tragic attacks.

“This behaviour can be only seen as an act of desperation. It can be explained by the difficulty of bringing would-be male suicide bombers into action,” al-Dulaimi said.

Growing number of female bombers

According to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, at least 17 female suicide bombers have blown themselves up since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Their targets have been US and Iraqi security forces, tribal Sunni groups battling al-Qaida in Iraq and Shia pilgrims, interior ministry statistics indicate. Among them was a Belgian Muslim who detonated explosives near a US patrol in November 2005. She was the only one killed in the blast.

Suicide bombings are “against Islam”

Muslim and tribal leaders in Iraq have been stepping up efforts to denounce the strategy of using suicide bombers, whether male or female, as inhuman and un-Islamic.

Sheikh Luqman Abdul-Hadi of al-Furqan mosque in western Baghdad denounced suicide bombers saying their acts were “against Islam's instructions and will take the perpetrator and the one who planned it to hell”.

Photo: DVIC
Many civilians were killed when a suicide bomber drove a car loaded with explosives into a bus. Muslim scholars have repeatedly condemned suicide bombings as against Islam

"Killing civilians and even animals or plants in such gruesome attacks is not jihad [holy war] and will not lead the bomber to paradise as they think but instead to hell," Abdul-Hadi said.

Ibtissam Jamal Dawood, an Iraqi independent women’s activist, has called for intensive psycho-social programmes to protect desperate women from extremists.

“Desperate women, especially those who have lost their loved ones in attacks, should have priority in all government-sponsored social programmes otherwise they will be simple prey to the extremists," Ibtissam said.

“Anyone can play with the minds of desperate women and manipulate them or exploit them as in most cases they feel that they have nothing to live for after losing a loved one," she added.