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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 17:36 GMT
Hamas urges Iraqi suicide bombing
Hamas demonstration in the Gaza Strip on Friday
Young and old attended the demonstration
A leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas has called on Iraqis to use suicide bombers against any US military force that invades.

"Prepare an army of would-be martyrs and prepare tens of thousands of explosive belts," said Abdel Aziz Rantissi, using the term Hamas favours for suicide bombing.

He was speaking at a pro-Iraq rally in the Gaza Strip attended by about 2,000 people.

Abdel Aziz Rantissi addresses a Hamas demonstration in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday
Rantissi's comment was a rarity for Hamas
His comment marks a rare departure for Hamas, which usually focuses exclusively on its campaign against Israel.

The militant group dispatched most of the suicide bombers who have struck against Israel in the past two years.

"Blow yourselves up against the American army. Bomb them in Baghdad," Mr Rantissi said.

"We say to the United States that their flag will go down while the Iraqi flag shall fly everywhere," he said.

US, UK and Israeli flags were burned during the demonstration, which was otherwise peaceful.

Iraq has paid millions of dollars to the families of Palestinians - including suicide bombers - killed since the intifada against Israel began in September 2000.


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