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Investigation of FOB Marez mess-hall bombing is complete, says general

ARLINGTON, Va. — The suicide bomber who killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers and four contractors, in a mess hall in Mosul on December 21, 2004, was wearing an Iraqi Army uniform and managed to sneak into the base the day of the attack without using a gate entry, Army Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez said Friday.

The bombing, at Forward Operating Base Marez, was one of the most devastating single attacks on coalition forces to date in Iraq. About 70 people were injured. Most of the victims were from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, a Stryker brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash.

Seven months later, the investigation into the case “is now complete,” but several key questions remain unanswered, said Rodriguez, who is commander of Multinational Force Northwest and commander of Task Force Freedom, during a video link from Iraq.

Investigators learned that the suicide bomber “was believed to be wearing an Iraqi uniform,” Rodriguez said. “He was not working on the base. … We think he infiltrated the base just to conduct the bombing.”

Investigators into the attack believe that the bomber was allied with Ansar Al-Sunnah, Rodriguez said.

Ansar Al-Sunnah is one of the leading groups behind attacks on coalition and U.S. troops in Iraq, according to terrorist profile compiled by the U.S. State Department.

Mostly Iraqi Kurds and Arabs, Ansar Al-Sunnah is also closely allied with terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaida in Iraq.

But Rodriguez was unable to say precisely how the bomber was able to get onto the base and into the mess hall — including whether he had assistance from someone who was officially authorized access.

“We do not believe he snuck past [or] went through perimeter guards and gates,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a large perimeter, and we think that he was somehow able to infiltrate the perimeter [without] going through an official gate.”

Investigators also were unable to tell whether the bomber was Iraqi, or a foreign insurgent, although “most of the suicide bombings, we believe, have been by foreigners who have infiltrated into the country, mostly from Syria,” Rodriguez said.

In the last three months, the 10,000 coalition forces and 35,000 Iraqi security forces under Rodriguez’s control “have captured approximately 70” such individuals involved with suicide bombing plans or attacks, he said.

In the same time frame, another 100 insurgents were either killed in their own suicide attacks or by coalition forces, Rodriguez said.

Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this story from the Pentagon.


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