x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Iraqi militant bomb instructor blows up his students

An instructor teaching militant recruits how to make car bombs accidentally set off explosives in his demonstration Monday, killing 21 of them in a huge blast.

BAGHDAD // An instructor teaching his militant recruits how to make car bombs accidentally set off explosives in his demonstration on Monday, killing 21 of them.

The huge blast alerted authorities to the existence of the rural training camp in an orchard north of Baghdad. Nearly two dozen people were arrested, including wounded insurgents trying to hobble away from the scene.

The fatal mistake by the Al Qaeda breakaway group that dominates the Sunni insurgency in Iraq happened on the same day that the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, a prominent Sunni whom the militants consider a traitor, escaped unhurt from a roadside bomb attack on his motorcade in Mosul.

The events underscored the determination of the insurgents to rebuild and regain the strength they enjoyed in Iraq at the height of the war until US-backed Sunni tribesmen turned against them. The militants are currently battling for control of mainly Sunni areas of western Iraq in a key test of the Shiite-led government’s ability to maintain security more than two years after the withdrawal of US troops.

The discovery shows that “the terrorist groups have made a strong comeback in Iraq and that the security problems are far from over, and things are heading from bad to worse,” said Hamid Al Mutlaq, a member of the parliament’s security and defence committee.

The militants belonged to a network now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an extremist group that recently broke with Al Qaeda. The ISIL, emboldened by fellow fighters’ gains in the Syrian civil war, has tried to position itself as the champion of Iraqi Sunnis angry at the government over what they see as efforts to marginalise them.

The explosion on Monday took place at a camp tucked away in an orchard in the village of Al Jalam, a farming area that has been a stronghold of Al Qaeda close to the Sunni city of Samarra. According to a police officer, an army official and a hospital official, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, the events unfolded as follows.

The militants were attending a lesson on making car bombs and explosive belts when a glitch set off one of the devices during the car bomb part of the demonstration. Security forces rushed to the area after hearing the thunderous blast and arrested 12 wounded militants along with another 10 trying to flee.

*Associated Press