Friday, December 03, 2004

Iraq the Magnet 

Iraq continues to be a magnet for people from around the world. Only not that long ago we have learned that the French were indeed fighting in Iraq, except for the other side:

"The two teenage friends hardly seemed like Islamic radicals. They smoked marijuana, drank beer, listened to rap music, and wore jeans...

"Like many young Muslims in France, Abdelhalim Badjoudj and Redouane el-Hakim did not have jobs, and relatives and friends say they grew more alienated in recent years, surrounded by secular Western culture and by what many Muslims see as a subtle bigotry among the French against Arabs.

"Badjoudj, who would have turned 19 on Dec. 16, allegedly blew himself up Oct. 20 while driving a car filled with explosives near a US patrol on Baghdad's airport road, wounding two American soldiers and two Iraqi police officers. He is thought to be the second French citizen to have carried out a suicide attack in Iraq.

"The body of Hakim, 19, reportedly was found July 17 after US troops bombed a suspected insurgent hide-out in Fallujah, the city west of Baghdad that was overrun this month by American and Iraqi troops.

"French officials also confirmed the death of a third French insurgent, identified as Tarek W. In his 20s, he reportedly was killed Sept. 17 after operating for several months in the so-called Sunni Triangle in Iraq, where most foreign fighters are based. No other details were available."
Now, we're learning that soldiers from the stridently anti-war New Zealand are nevertheless on the ground in Iraq right now - except not in their capacity as New Zealand soldiers:

"Soldiers are leaving the Army to work in Iraq for huge pay packets the Defence Force can't match. The admission by the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, came at a hearing before Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and trade committee yesterday. He said the Defence Force could not compete with pay rates of $200,000 to $300,000 a year being offered to people to work as security guards in the strife-torn country."
All this however pales next to a schizophrenic situation faced by Bulgaria. Bulgaria, of course, has a contingent of troops in Iraq, but apparently it also has some of its citizens fighting for the other side: "Some dozen Arabs with Bulgarian citizenship have been detected among the active terrorist groups in Iraq, according to CIA quoted by Bulgarian TRUD daily... The CIA office in Baghdad was reported saying that Arabs with permits of temporary or permanent stay in Bulgaria were engaged in the arms trade and the insurgency organization in Iraq."


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