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Last Updated:  Sunday, 6 April, 2003, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
Suicide bomber who surrendered
By Terry Richards and Tom Newton Dunn
With 40 Commando in Basra

The elderly Iraqi man walked gingerly towards the checkpoint set up by Royal Marines on the outskirts of Basra.

As he got closer to the troops they warily fixed their gun barrels on the shuffling figure in front of them.

Holding his hands in the air he shouted out in English: "Please, please. Surrender, surrender."

Marines check a man who surrendered as a suicide bomber
The man was arrested and checked for more weapons
As I watched the man, in his 60s and dressed in flowing robes and head dress, he looked like just another frightened Iraqi trying to give himself up to the British.

Then he dropped six grenades on the floor.

One by one they fell from his Arabic tunic, clattering to the ground.

All hell broke loose as I, and dozens of others in the area, dived for cover.

For a few seconds it was still - the grenades hadn't gone off, the pins remained intact.

The Fedayeen said I had three choices, they kill me, the British kill me, or I kill myself
All that could be heard were the gentle moanings of the Iraqi man, repeating the words "Surrender, surrender."

British sentries on the roof of a nearby building shouted at him to get on his knees.

As he lay on the ground members of 40 Commando ran over and seized him, stripping off his clothes and checking for more weapons.

He was then arrested and led away for questioning.

Later the fisherman's tragic story emerged.

He told Marine commanders how he had been forced at gunpoint by Fedayeen militia to stage a suicide attack against their base.

Living alone, and with no family, they had deemed him a perfect choice to carry out their attack.

"The [Fedayeen] special operations team said I had three choices, they kill me, the British kill me, or I kill myself," the man, who wished only to be identified as Abdullah, said.

Grenades dropped by the man
The grenades surrendered by the man
After dragging him from his home in the city, they drove him in a taxi to within a few hundred yards of the base.

Pushing him out of the car, they kept their guns fixed on the old man as he tottered towards the checkpoint.

But at the last minute, instead of detonating the grenades, he decided to surrender to the Marines.

"I did not want to do the attack because I hate Saddam Hussein and his regime and the British I see as my friends," he said.

"I am a Muslim and killing people is also against my religion, but they gave me no choice.

Tracking down militia

"When I walked up to the gate I thought, I cannot do this. So I told the British soldiers I am their friend and I pulled up my shirt and showed them my weapons, and they didn't shoot me."

Abdullah added: "There are other people like me that the regime forces to do things they don't want. We just want freedom".

Last night members of 40 Commando were understood to be carrying out an operation in the city to pinpoint the militia responsible.

The unit's commanding officer, Colonel Gordon Messenger, said "We now have good intelligence on the group behind this attempted attack.

"We also believe they are the men who attacked our base three days ago. They are hiding locally, and we hope to track them down very shortly."

  • This has been written using pool copy from Terry Richards, of The Sun, and Tom Newton Dunn, of the Daily Mirror, with 40 Commando in Basra.

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