CAIRO, Egypt – The homicide bomber who killed 22 people when he blew himself up in a U.S. mess hall in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was a Saudi medical student, an Arab newspaper reported Monday.
Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat (search) identified him as 20-year-old Ahmed Said Ahmed al-Ghamdi (search), citing unnamed friends of the man's father. The friends said members of an Iraqi resistance group contacted al-Ghamdi's father to tell him his son was the homicide bomber who carried out the Dec. 21 attack, the deadliest on an American installation in Iraq.
The father refused to discuss the homicide bombing, but told the newspaper his son had gone to Iraq to fight the Americans and had died there. The family held a mourning ceremony the paper said. It did not say when the ceremony was held or where in Saudi Arabia (search) the family lived.
The Associated Press was unable to reach Saudi security officials for comment despite repeated telephone calls Monday.
The U.S.-led coalition that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has faced fierce resistance, most of it carried out by Saddam loyalists or Iraqi nationalists. Some of the deadliest attacks, though, have been blamed on non-Iraqi Muslim extremists.
U.S. officials have said their preliminary investigation indicates the bomber was dressed in an Iraqi military uniform — but was not an Iraqi soldier — when he slipped into a mess tent packed with soldiers eating lunch in northern Iraq.
The paper did not name the Iraqi resistance group. But Ansar al-Sunnah, a radical Islamic Iraqi group that has been active in northern Iraq, claimed responsibility for the mess hall attack. In a videotape posted on the Web, Ansar al-Sunnah identified the homicide bomber as Abu Omar al-Musali — an apparent nom de guerre meaning Abu Omar of Mosul.
The man identified as Abu Omar al-Musali appeared in the Web video wearing an explosives-laden vest, but did not speak. Another man, speaking in an Iraqi accent, described how the operation had been planned. A subsequent segment showed what appeared to have been the attack.
Ansar al-Sunnah shares the anti-Western, Quranic rhetoric of Islamic extremist groups like Al Qaeda, but has confined its fight to Iraq and has not actively recruited foreign fighters. The group, though, has declared that it worked with an Al Qaeda-linked group in Iraq in at least one operation in November.
Asharq al-Awsat said al-Ghamdi started studying medicine in Sudan when his father worked and lived there. Al-Ghamdi stayed to complete his studies when his family returned to Saudi Arabia, the paper reported, without saying when the family left.
It said the father said he learned Dec. 16 that his son had withdrawn all the money left in a Sudanese bank account for him and later received a phone call from his son telling him that he was in Iraq to fight the Americans.
The al-Ghamdis are a large Saudi clan, three members of which were among the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Saudi Arabia has launched a crackdown on militants that started after terrorism was brought home with an alleged Al Qaeda attack on three residential compounds in Riyadh in May 2003. The kingdom also has been under pressure to ensure Saudi militants do not cross its border into Iraq.