Palestine attack the work of Ba’athists, Jihadis
BAGHDAD — Monday’s attack on the Palestine Hotel was not targeting journalists, I’ve learned, but a security company in the hotel, according to my sources in the insurgency. (You can read the “full article”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1122849,00.html I did for TIME.com here.)
According to sources, who remain anonymous, al Qaeda in Iraq and Jaysh al-Muhammad, one of the largest Ba’athist groups, staged the joint operation in order to attack and kill members of one of the security firms stationed in the Palestine. Journalists were not specifically targeted, but because the plan was to get the huge cement truck bomb under the Palestine and bring down much of the building, I’m told, it seems impossible that journalists would have escaped injury.
The Palestine is well-known in Baghdad as a haunt for journalists and security companies.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying it attacked “the intelligence agencies, American, Australian and British security companies and the thieves of the treasures of Iraq,” referring to contractors. Insurgent sources also told me they believe the targeted security firm is actually a western or Israeli intelligence agency. Statements signed by Abu Maisara, the “spokesman” for al Qaeda, have been authenticated in the past.
Jaysh al-Muhammad is not mentioned in the statement.
The actual attack was carried out by the Lions of Bara’a bin Malik, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq but made up of Iraqi suicide bombers. (Bara’a bin Malik was Islam’s first suicide attacker, who lived — and died — in the time of the Prophet.)
While it seems counter-intuitive that secular Ba’athists would work with _jihadis_ of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s stripe, they sometimes combine forces for large operations against their common enemy: foreigners and infidels. They also often share information and techniques.