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Iraq ups its payments to relatives of bombers

©Associated Press
April 4, 2002

NABLUS, West Bank -- Saddam Hussein has increased payments for relatives of suicide bombers from $10,000 to $25,000, drawing sharp criticism from Washington. But Palestinians say the bombers are driven by a priceless thirst for revenge, religious zeal and dreams of glory -- not greed.

Since Iraq increased its payments last month, 12 suicide bombers have successfully struck inside Israel, including one man who killed 25 Israelis as they sat down to a meal at a hotel to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. The families of three suicide bombers said they have recently received payments of $25,000.

Hussein has said the Palestinians need weapons and money instead of peace proposals and has provided payments throughout a year and a half of Israeli-Palestinian battles. "I saw on Iraqi TV President Saddam saying he will continue supporting the (uprising) even if it means selling his own clothes," said Mahmoud Safi, leader of a pro-Iraqi Palestinian group, the Arab Liberation Front.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Hussein's payments inspire a "culture of political murder."

"Here is an individual who is the head of a country, Iraq, who has proudly, publicly made a decision to go out and actively promote and finance human sacrifice for families that will have their youngsters kill innocent men, women and children," Rumsfeld said Wednesday.

But Hussein is not the only one giving money. Charities from Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- U.S. allies -- pay money to families of Palestinians killed in the fighting, including suicide bombers.

The mother of Jamal Nasser, a 23-year-old architecture student who died trying to ram an explosives-laden car into a bus carrying Jewish settlers, said she received a check for $10,000 from Iraq and one for $5,000 from Saudi Arabia. She said she plans to put the money toward buying an apartment.

Under the new Iraqi payscale, decided March 12 during an Arab conference in Baghdad, the families of gunmen and others who die fighting the Israelis will receive $10,000, while the relatives of suicide bombers will get $25,000.

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