November 03, 2004

French reporter's Al QaQaa story translated

The Nouvel Observateur story of a reporter's trip to the Al QaQaa facility with some Iraqi guerrillas is out. It's not much of a barnburner, compared to the previous Paris-Match interview, apparently with the same publicity-friendly insurgent group. Still, it's worth a read. French journalist Sara Daniel claims she accompanied guerrilla leader Abou Abdallah to pick up some explosives he needed from an unguarded Al QaQaa in November, 2003. Translation follows:

Iraq: The explosives dump had been plundered for at least a year
by Sara Daniel

"It is a city of explosives: the paradise of the insurrectionists. The Al Qaqaa site where 350 tonnes of explosives disappeared from, according to the IAEA, was used a long time after the fall of the regime to supply groups of Iraqi insurrectionists. When I wrote about guerrilla cells in the Lattifiya area in November 2003, I had accompanied the group which a few days later, after our visit to Al Qaqaa, would make the attack against a DHL cargo plane. Abou Abdallah and his comrades in arms were still using the place, to cache their TNT and explosives. The spectacle offered by this city of bombs, a terrorist's Ali Baba's cave that extended for tens of kilometers, was amazing.

"To get there, the group that attacked the plane kept to side roads, the small unpaved ways that the American soldiers do not use because they are too risky. They said that they had moved out weapons and stocks of TNT by the truckload right after the fall of the regime, thinking that the Americans would seize this cache of weapons before long. They had shown us that arsenal: rocket launchers, grenades, and helicopter missiles, arranged and buried in yellow zucchini fields.

"But they had soon realized that a whole army would be needed for the Americans to guard the old Al QaQaa weapons factory . Then they did not take the trouble anymore of burying TNT in their farm fields. The earth-covered hangars themselves, vast vaults of explosives, contain all they need. The Abou Abdallah group told me they had already used the invaluable red powder inside [high explosive] to attack a convoy on the road between Al Asoua and the Bassora motorway.

"As the guerrillas' car moved towards the ammunition dump of Al Qaqaa, it had been intercepted by an American patrol. On a tank, a young male soldier had pointed his automatic weapon on the group. Abdallah, smiling as he got out of the car, joked in Arabic with the American soldier of Jordanian origin who interrogated them. After three minutes, he had let them go. When we arrived at the factory, nobody prevented us from entering.

"The few Iraqi armed guards we saw did not even ask what we were doing there. Stunned by the ease of it all, we were able to wander around this city of bombs, shells and explosives. All the military history of Iraq lay before us. After the fall of the regime, many looters had descended to grab the shells which strewed the ground. It was impossible to understand why the place had not been guarded better. The following day at one of the welcome parties thrown by an American agency at the Palace, I asked one of the generals in charge of creating the new Iraqi army why Al Qaqaa was not supervised more. He had never heard about one of the largest explosives and bombs factories in the Middle East..."

Daniel first described her Al QaQaa adventure in a longer piece, published November, 2003. Translation of that piece to follow shortly.

Posted by BruceR at 03:50 PM

Things to take pride in

Hamid Karzai was officially declared the winner of his election this morning, as well. Canadian military efforts have played their small part in helping keep the Kabul area calm this last 18 months or so: we should take pride that we helped a country that once seemed unfixable find a couple years of peace and relative tolerance to rebuild itself.

Posted by BruceR at 01:33 PM

Just call me Mr. Cassandra

As a pessimist, I am frequently right. I hate that.

"The more I find out about Clarkdeankerry, the more I recall steadfast democrat Tom Binkley from Bloom County, fetal on his bed because he secretly thinks Jesse Jackson is "a little loopy..." Ex-Canadian Samantha Bee had a nice piece on the Daily Show last night comparing them all to fringe presidential candidate "Lobsterman." Viewing the candidates sans the still-opaque-to-me Edwards from afar, I'd vote for the lobster... American Democrats! Trust the two Canadians on this one! If anyone knows squishy-centrist leftism, it's us! We've built a whole country on the notion!"
--Flit, Jan. 20

"Kerry and Clark are in their own ways, versions of the McClellanist strategy. And as in 1864, running a war hero with obvious human flaws, against a wartime president who, if not winning the current war, is not obviously losing it either, is almost certainly a losing political strategy."
--Flit, Jan. 22

"I personally think Sen. Kerry will be a disaster for the Democrats."
--Flit, Feb. 12

Posted by BruceR at 10:29 AM