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Expert: Terror tactics 'show desperation'

'Don't look for the typical suicide bomber,' author cautions

Saijida Mubarak Atrous al-Rishawi makes a confession on Jordanian television, which aired on Sunday.




(CNN) -- An Iraqi woman detained Sunday by Jordan said she tried to blow herself up with her husband in an Amman hotel last week, in one of three attacks that killed 57 bystanders.

Local authorities said the attacks were orchestrated by al Qaeda in Iraq -- a group led by Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- and that the confessed bomber is the sister of al-Zarqawi's "right-hand man," who was killed by U.S. forces in Falluja, Iraq.

CNN anchor Fredericka Whitfield on Sunday discussed the confession with Joyce Davis, the author of "Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance and Despair in the Middle East."

WHITFIELD: Why, Ms. Davis, are you seeing this as a part of this civil war in Islam?

DAVIS: Because what you are now seeing is a tactic that was once used against the West, against allies of the United States. You're seeing that same tactic now turned on Muslims, on people who these Islamic militants are supposed to be trying to protect.

WHITFIELD: Do you see that perhaps the profile of what had been the common -- or more expected -- suicide bomber to be changing as a result of the influence of this civil war within Islam?

DAVIS: That's a very good observation, because we are seeing tactics that one would say ... show desperation.

As the security forces are intensifying their abilities to stop the typical, so to speak, the male suicide bomber, we are seeing that they're trying more and more to bring women, and of course, what one fears, children. We've even had in recent times the use of a mother -- the mother of two children, small children -- who carried out a suicide attack.

These are not things that just pop up overnight. These are well-planned operations, and generally there have been practice runs.

WHITFIELD: Does it seem as though this woman -- if al Qaeda was going to for the first time use a woman to carry out such a plan -- that she really was the perfect candidate, in part because of her brother's relationship to al- Zarqawi?

DAVIS: That's right. Clearly, the people they have chosen are people who are trusted, who have some connection, and they feel that they will carry out the operation.

But the other thing that is generally required is proof that you have the willpower, the discipline, and what they would call the commitment to ... the precepts of Islam, this kind of inner conviction to go forward with an operation.

So it's surprising to me to hear that her husband simply gave her a belt. I would have thought she'd have had to have proved herself many times for this kind of operation.

WHITFIELD: In her statement she says that her husband organized everything, and she doesn't know anything. Is that a believable statement? Might she be recruited or coerced or forced to be a part of this mission, but really not be open to all the details of how it is being executed, just given instructions on how to detonate her belt?

DAVIS: It is possible that she would simply have been told what to do. But she would have had to prove her inner strength, her commitment before then. ... I tend to think she was part of an organization, and had many times been asked to carry out or to help in operations. And this time, she was expected to carry out the ultimate operation, a suicide bombing.

WHITFIELD: So her docile demeanor in this statement might intentionally be to kind of throw off her intent, that perhaps this is not the first time that, as you say, she has proven that she would be willing to carry out this plan, that there were other things that she probably had to do to win the trust of al-Zarqawi or his group?

DAVIS: Absolutely. And I would caution us against stereotypes with regard to women. As we know, women can be very fine soldiers, and women also can be ruthless. Women can be shrewd. So I would caution us, this is one of the things, don't look for the typical suicide bomber. A woman can be a suicide bomber.

WHITFIELD: So perhaps those who are studying whether it's al Qaeda in Iraq or other terror groups, that there's a possibility that, as you look at friends or family members that are linked to these group leaders, they are more likely now perhaps to be used to carry out such attacks?

DAVIS: I would certainly caution against assuming that everyone whose relative may have been involved in a terrorist attack or may have been a suicide bomber also will commit such an attack.

But in my studies, I have found clearly that sometimes these kinds of operations are committed by family members. They are cells that exist. And again, there has to be an anger. Something that has really pushed someone to the edge of wanting to actually use their bodies as a weapon.

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