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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Video Shows Syrian Suicide Bomber’s Last Day

Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian rebel group linked to Al Qaeda, released a brief documentary about the final day of a suicide bomber.YouTube Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian rebel group linked to Al Qaeda, released a brief documentary about the final day of a suicide bomber.

Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian rebel group accused of ties to Al Qaeda, posted a video online this week that documents the last day in the life of a suicide bomber who killed himself in an attack on a government checkpoint in January.

The video appears to be an effort to publicize an attack that the group describes as “the largest martyrdom operation in Syria,” but also to humanize the group, which was blacklisted by the United States in ecember. The brief documentary offers a rare glimpse into the last day in the life of a suicide bomber as he jokes with friends, says tearful goodbyes to his fellow fighters and picks his target with the help of Google Maps.

Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian rebel group, posted the documentary about a suicide bomber in a Jan. 26 attack.

The bomber’s identity is obscured throughout the video. His face is either blurred or concealed behind a ski mask, and his real name is hidden behind a sobriquet, Abu Islam. He speaks with a Syrian accent, strongly suggesting that he was Syrian and not a foreign fighter.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said in an interview that he had seen many videos of foreign suicide bombers in Syria but “it is the first time I see! the video of a Syrian.”

“I heard his accent and he seemed thrilled and happy to be on this journey to heaven, and it was really moving,” Mr. Abdelrahman said. “It moved me more than if it was a foreign fighter.”

The video begins with a “martyrdom message” filmed by Abu Islam that includes an explanation for the attack as well as a final farewell to his parents. In the next scene, he is shown joking and laughing from behind a ski mask. The cameraman asks him how it feels to know he would soon drive a truck packed with 20 tons of explosives into a checkpoint.

“You’ll ride 20 tons of explosives, you’ll blow yourself up. How is that” the cameraman asks. Abu Islam breaks into a broad grin behind his ski mask and laughs before responding that he was doing it to “please God.” Knowing that he had pleased God, he says, would be a greater reward than even “paradise and the virgins” he believed were awaiting him there.

Abu Islam is next shown on a veranda saying aheartfelt goodbye to his friends in the brigade. Some laugh and joke while others sniffle or weep quietly. A solemn religious chant plays in the background. In a flourish reminiscent of reality television, text at the bottom of the screen described the scene: “Abu Islam with his brothers before departure. Minutes before his departure to the military base.”

“Abu Islam, these are the last moments of your presence with us here in this world,” the cameraman says as the bomber grins. “Say something from your heart to your brothers.”

After a pause, he looks at his friends and responds: “There is great sadness, really, in leaving. But my passion for God is honestly greater. Passion for God is greater than everything.”

“I want to say to my brothers the jihadists in the jihad, and to Muslims in general, do not give up or reduce your efforts, until Islamic law is implemented on the earth.”

The young men then begin to joke again. The cameraman asks Abu Islam if he wou! ld like t! o add more explosives to the truck, if there was space. Laughing, he replies, “I swear, I’d like to add a lot more!”

The video then shows the nuts and bolts of the operation: the large truck that Abu Islam drove to his target, the mashtal checkpoint south of the town of Quseir, as well as Abu Islam and another rebel planning which roads he would use to drive there on Google Maps.

“This is the side street, God willing, and then here is the main road,” says the other rebel, tracing the bomber’s route on a computer screen. “And here is the start of the checkpoint. The first military gathering, after the barricades.”

“God willing, this whole area will be destroyed,” he says.

Suicide bombings are becoming more common in the Syrian conflict, Mr. Abdelrahman said, and the video includes several scenes from suicide attacks in other Syrian cities, including Damascus, Aleppo and Hama.

Reflecting on the happiness that Abu Islam exhibited as he prepared for his death, M.. Abdelrahman recounted an anecdote he said he had heard from activists in the town of Saraqeb, in Idlib, who stumbled upon a suicide bomber stranded by the side of the road by a flat tire.

“He started crying, and other fighters asked why he’s so disappointed; he said that his name has been on the a waiting list for three months, and he’s devastated that he won’t be going to heaven when his turn has come,” Mr. Abdelrahman said.

The video ends with footage of Abu Islam’s truck driving down a dirt road. The footage appears to have been shot from the dashboard of a car following him. A black jihadist flag flaps in the wind and gunfire is heard in the distance.

The final scenes of the video are shown multiple times from different angles: a huge explosion on the horizon followed by volleys of retaliatory gunfire from government soldiers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the attack, which took place on Jan. 26, “destroyed the checkpoint entirely” but! that it ! had received no information about the number of casualties. We know that at least one person died: a young man who went by the name Abu Islam.