Suicide vest now weapon of choice for Qaeda in Iraq: US

BAGHDAD, March 16, 2008 (AFP) – The explosive vest has become the weapon of choice for Al-Qaeda in Iraq, with most jihadists nowadays wearing the lethal garment and the number of suicide attacks on the rise, the US military said Sunday. “There has been an increase over time in the use of suicide vest bombers,” US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a news conference in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

“Late in 2007 there were about eight or 10 a month; in the month of February, there were 18. There is an increase,” he said.

Military operations by Iraqi and US forces had put the jihadists to flight, leaving them less capable of carrying out car and roadside bombings.

“We are also seeing that average Al-Qaeda fighters are wearing suicide vests and before they are captured they are often blowing themselves up,” Smith told reporters.

“That is something we have not seen earlier. We used to see just the most senior leadership of Al-Qaeda wearing suicide vests.”

The US military in Iraq had also tracked an increase in requests by Al-Qaeda leaders for foreign fighters to become human bombs, Smith said.

“They believe that a suicide bomber wearing a vest can become a useful tool for them to take part in