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Female mind of a suicide bomber.

Dressed to Kill: Inside the Mind of the First Female Palestinian Suicide Bomber Until now, no one has discovered the secrets of how suicide bombers are selected and trained in the Occupied Territories. Gordon Thomasa specialist on Middle East affairshas learned the truth of how suicide bombers are prepared, focusing on the most shocking of them all: the never-before-told story behind the worlds first Palestinian woman suicide bomber. On one fine spring Sunday morningone that Israelis like to remind themselves was why they called Palestine the promised landWafaa Ali Idris prepared herself to die. She hoped as many Israelis as possible would suffer a similar fate from her actions. She was about to become a shaheed, a martyr to her causea suicide bomber to the rest of the world. There had been many bombers before her, but Wafaa was assured of her place in the pantheon of martyrdom: She would be the first female suicide bomber to launch herself against unsuspecting Israelis. Wafaas mother, Wasfiya, would later say you had to watch her only daughter in motion to really appreciate her. Her neighbors in the refugee camp in Ramallah said Wafaa always seemed to be in motion as she strolled through streets that have no names, smiling at the men, but rarely stopping. Her home has a living room and two bedrooms. The floor is bare earth covered with cheap rugs bought in one of the nearby souks, or small craft shops. There is a naked electric light and an oil lamp in case the Israelis cut the electricity supply. It happens. On that Sunday morning Wafaa was close to her 32nd birthday. Her proudest gift was a framed photo of Yasser Arafat, personally given to her by the chairman of the PLO. She had been a member of his Fatah organization since, as a teenager, she threw her first stones against Israeli soldiers on the West Bank. She had married, at 18, a distant cousin who was a blacksmith. Ten years later his mother had forced the couple to divorce because Wafaa had been unable to produce a child. After the divorce, Wafaa had joined the Red Crescent Society, working as a paramedic for Islams equivalent of the Red Cross. She was in the thick of the fighting. She would help the injured and often carry the badly wounded and dying children, her mother said with pride. At the end of a long day in the front line, my daughter would cry in my arms as she recalled the terrible things she witnessed. Wafaas circle of friends changed. In back-street cafs she sipped coffee with members of Hamas, which was founded in 1987 during the first Intifada. She also began to mix with Hezbollah. Israels Shin Betits internal security forcelater established that Wafaa became involved with Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Then Wafaa met a recruiter for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. A clue to what drove them can be found in the words of Wafaas mother. She said, Wafaa had finally found what she wanted: A chance to show she was a true daughter of Palestine. On that Sunday, five months after she had been accepted by the Martyrs, she was finally ready to die for them. The night before, while the streets of Ramallah had been filled with young disco-goers, an elderly woman had delivered a packet to the house where Wafaa lived with her widowed mother. The packet contained a new bra and panties, along with a customized bodysuit. It was designed to conceal up to three kilos of explosives, nails and razor fragments. The suit was designed to fit under Wafaas street clothes. It had several pockets deep enough to take sticks of explosives. They would be distributed around her upper torso. Other pockets around her waist were for the nail and razor fragments. There was a separate pouch that extended over the genital area. Later Dr. Ariel Merari, a ranking expert on the techniques of suicide bombers at Tel Aviv University, suggested the pouch was created because the Israeli security forces never search Arab women in that area of their body. Wafaa had never met the person who had made the suit. To Shin Bet the man was known as the Tailor of Death. The intelligence service eventually established he was a highly skilled craftsman who uses a treble stitch to sew the suit. It is made from a cloth sold in Arab shops for making undershirts. The sewing cotton came from a similar source. Shin Bet decided that the tailor probably used an old-fashioned Singer sewing machine, which was hand-operated. Later it would emerge from Israeli intelligence that Wafaas suit, like all those worn by male suicide bombers, had been designed so that the distribution of explosives was carefully balancedand that the explosive effect would cover the widest possible area. Wafaa may also have received advice on the choice of outer clothing. We know that some male suicide bombers have worn wigs and been well dressed. This has helped them to gain access to up-market cafs and restaurants which have been among their targets, said Dr. Merari. Wafaas mother later recalled her daughter had laid out her bodysuit and clean underwear on her bed early on that Sunday morning. Then she had chosen her finest jeans and a loose fitting blouse to conceal her bodysuit. By then she had been joined by her spiritual advisera male member of the Martyrs. They had prayed together. He had recited passages from the Quran. He had handed her a copy of the Quran, which she tucked into her back trouser pocket. Together they had set off on the long hike over the hills and along dry riverbeds toward Jerusalem. The only clue as to what Wafaa was like in those last moments comes from her mother. Sitting on the floor of her living room in Ramallah, Wasfiya spoke of the last time she saw her daughter alive. She was very calm, Wasfiya said. She told me I was not to worry. She looked happy and very certain. I was proud of her. She had made her decision. Shortly after noon on that Sunday, Wafaa blew herself up in a crowded Jerusalem street. She killed an 81-year-old man and injured over 100 men, women and children. The explosives blew off her head and one arm and left a gaping hole in her abdomen. An hour later the radios in Ramallah proclaimed her to be a true heroine of our people. But how had Wafaa been manipulated in the name of religious extremism? The first suicide bombing in Israel had been in April 1993. Others soon followed, killing hundreds and wounding thousands. Each potential bomber is recommended to the Jihad Committee. This is a little-known group within the Martyrs. Their exact number is unknown. To avoid Israels electronic eavesdropping apparatusa helicopter hovering high over the West Bank can pick up a whispered conversation in a housethe committee members communicate all important decisions through handwritten notes. Those notes include a decision on a likely candidate to be a suicide bomber. Long before the person is approached, careful checks are made into the family background. The fear the Israelis will plant a potential bomber so as to get close to the Jihad committee is a constant threat. There have been at least two such betrayals. A critical decision in the selection process is the religious standing of a potential candidate. His imam [religious overseer] is consulted on how well a candidate knows the Quran, how regular is his mosque attendance. There are other preconditions. No bomber must be the sole wage earner in the family. If two brothers (or sisters) volunteer, only one will be chosen. A favorable decision made, the candidate is invited to meet the Jihad Committee. These meetings are often held in public places, again to reduce the risk of electronic surveillance. The first meeting focuses on a candidates religious knowledge. Only later are they closely questioned about their political commitments. When the committee is satisfied on both scores, a candidate is told he will be placed on a list of suicide bombers. No outsider knows its size. The Israelis believe it numbers hundreds. The preparations for martyrdom are conducted inside a mosque, usually in a back room far away from prying eyes. The imam is assisted by an assistanta member of the Jihad Committee. Up to eight hours a day are spent with a candidate in the run-up to his death. Silent prayer and readings from the Quran form the central part of the preparations. The first sign a bomber knows he is about to go to his death comes when he is joined by two advisers who replace the assistant. Older men steeped in Islamic dogma, their task is to ensure a bomber does not waver in his or her readiness to die. They focus on the glory waiting in paradise: of being finally in the presence of Allah, of being allowed to meet the Prophet Mohammed. As the time grows closer to his mission, the bomber is moved to a specially prepared room. Its walls are inscribed with verses from the Quran. Between the verses are painted green birds flying in a purple sky, a reminder that they carry the souls of martyrs to Allah. There are constant checks to ensure the bomber shows no signs of fear. Reassured, the advisers then confer on him the title of al shaheed al hay, the living martyr. In the final stages, the bomber places a copy of the Quran inside his clothes. Over it goes the bodysuit. A wire to the detonator button is taped to the palm of the right hand. The advisers escort the bomber close to the target area. They bid farewell with the promise given to all human bombers: Allah is with you. Allah will give you success so that he can receive you in paradise. Later, as the bomber presses the button, he cries out, Allah akbar: Allah is great. To prepare a candidate for death, contacts with the family are reduced to a minimum. This is to reduce any hesitation over severing earthly ties. He or she is constantly reminded of the new life ahead. Only when a candidate is on the eve of martyrdom is he or she usually allowed final time with his or her family. In part this is to test whether or not they will weaken in their resolve. Wafaa, for example, spent her last two days with her mother. Only when she had taken delivery of her underclothes and bodysuit did she let her mother know what was going to happen. We prayed together. For Palestine. For my daughters safe journey to a better world, said Wasfiya. She is herself a woman who sees life through the prism of Islamic extremism. Her reading is confined to the Quran: Her hero is Arafat. Her dream is that her daughter has gone to her death to help create a Palestinian homeland. In some respects Wafaa did not quite fit the profile of a shaheed. Until she had been enrolled by the Martyrs, she had not shown any strong religious feelings. After time with the Martyrs she became a devout follower of all that I had taught her as a child. There was not a day when she did not study the Quran, said Wasfiya. Her anger against Israel also became a living vibrant force that sustained her during her work as a paramedic. In the year before her death, she had been injured three times by Israeli soldiers as she had tended to Arabs wounded on the streets of Ramallah. Her mother said: At that time my daughter was getting more and more angry. All she was doing was trying to save lives. But the soldiers did not care. Then one day she said to me, Mother, I have joined the Martyrs. It is the only way I can serve my people. All those who have died have to be avenged. I understood her feelings. To grasp the power of martyrdom for such people, you need go no further than the Ramallah mosque, where one of the imams explains: First you must understand the meaning of the spirit. It draws us upward while the power of material things tries to hold us back. But when you are filled with a true desire to be a martyr, the material influence recedes. Only if you are a true believer will you begin to understand that. To all nonbelievers it is impossible to comprehend, he said. But for those who have chosen to die, they know they are close to eternity. They have no doubts of the wonderful world that awaits them, he added. Each and every one understands the legitimacy of what they are about to do. They have each made an oath on the Quran to carry out their noble action. It is the oath of jihad. We call it bayt al ridwan, named after the Garden of Paradise for the true prophets, he said. In Ramallah suicide bombers are heroes. There are posters for the Martyr of the Month. They are celebrated in song and verse. They are remembered in Friday prayers in every mosque in the West Bank and Gaza City. Imams, like the one at that Ramallah mosque, are fearful of giving their namesin case they may be arrested for complicity in a suicide bombing. But Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, has no such fears. Love of martyrdom is something deep inside the heart. But these rewards are not in themselves the goal of the martyr. The only aim of the true believer is to win Allahs satisfaction. That can be done in the simplest and speediest manner by dying in the cause of Allah. And never forget it is Allah who selects the martyrs, he said. There is no shortage of volunteers to follow Wafaa. After she killed herself, the Jihad Committee in Ramallah issued her photograph to the media. That evening her mother was a guest of honor at a celebration in the street where Wafaa lived. Hundreds of people came to celebrate her martyrdom. At the street party soft drinks and cakes were served, and her mother ululated in joy over the honor Allah had bestowed upon her family. As the evening wore on, there was talk that the Martyrs would not only use more womenbut children. According to a Mossad officer, that decision had been partly endorsed at a terror summit held in the Bekaa valley in Lebanon. The summit was attended by the leaders of the Martyrs who had sent Wafaa to her death. Present too were senior members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It was decided that for the moment children under 12 would not be used. But women of 16 years and upward would be trained to die. The actions of martyrs have been described as sacred explosions. The act of suicide is forbidden in Islam. But the spin-doctors of the Martyrs are well versed in the art of propaganda. For families who have allowed their children to be sacrificed, the financial rewards are good. Each immediate family member has all his or her debts paid off by the Jihad Committee. Each receives a pension for life. While it varies, it is said to be a minimum of twice the income they received before their son or daughter died. The money comes from Iran. It is laundered through the central banks from Damascus to Athens. From there it is electronically transferred to an account in Cairo. Then it is couriered to Gaza City for distribution. The Mossad has devoted considerable time to try and trace the final destination of the money in the hope it could lead them to the men who prepared the bombers. But it is a daunting task. The Martyrs operate on a small-cell basis. Often there are no more than two or three persons in a cell. In the closed world of the refugee camps, informers for Israeli intelligence are hard to recruit. Those who are discovered by Palestinian patriots are executed. For them death can be agonizingly slow, preceded by unspeakable torture. For their families there is the odium of having bred a traitor. But for the suicide bomber there is only glory. In the world they inhabited there is little enough of that. For them death is perhaps all too often a welcoming relief. After Wafaa died, a leaflet was circulated with her photo throughout the West Bank. It read: We do not have tanks or rockets. But we have something superiorour Islamic human bombs. In place of a nuclear arsenal we are proud of our arsenal of believers. http://www.americanfreepress.net/10_18_03/Dressed_to_Kill/dressed_to_kill.html

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