AC: Chlorine gas and a grim anniversary
Click photo to play
KIRAN CHETRY: But we begin in Iraq with a new threat on a grim anniversary.
It was one year ago tonight that the war was taking a sharp turn for the worse. One of the holiest sites for Shiites, a mosque in Samarra, was bombed, setting off a wave of revenge attacks on dozens of Sunni mosques. From that point on, the explosion of sectarian fighting snowballed. And, now, one year later, the warfare is only getting uglier. Dirty bombs are now part of the mix.
CNN's Michael Ware joins me now from Baghdad.
Michael, great to see you.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi.
CHETRY: Another possible change in tactics by the terrorists, we're learning of today -- the latest, the truck bombs that are combining explosives with chlorine gas. And they have used chlorine in at least two other attacks.
So, how dangerous is this stuff, this gas combined with the explosives?
WARE: Well, if used properly, it's an horrific weapon.
I mean, what chlorine does to the lungs is beyond imagination. It inflicts terrible wounds and a nightmarish death. And don't forget, this is a weapon that is very powerful in instilling fear, in spreading terror, which is why it's such a popular strategy for terrorists to explore.
However, we have seen the insurgents here in Iraq experimenting time and again with a whole variety of chemical weapons, particularly blister agents, akin to mustard gas, much of which was left behind -- decaying, old, almost beyond use -- from Saddam's regime.
What we're now seeing is them experimenting again, adapting explosives with chlorine tanks. It's a very difficult technique to perfect, to have the mass impact that I'm sure that the insurgents would be looking for.
CHETRY: And is it something that's easy to do, easy to get a hold of, and easy to do without people noticing?
WARE: Well, chlorine is chlorine. I mean, that's not hard to come by.
Explosives -- as many Iraqis have said to me, you kick the dirt in this country, you will either uncover oil or weapons. The materiel required for such devices is not the problem.
The problem is knowing the right mix, how to use just enough explosives to ignite the device, without burning off the chemical. How to predict the weather patterns, the meteorological condition that are best suited to the deployment of this device. I mean, weaponizing chlorine or any other agent really is at the heart of the matter and is the most complicated aspect of deploying chemical or other weapons of this nature.
CHETRY: Well, these attacks, the latest ones, actually happened in neighborhoods on the outskirts of the capital. So, is this a sign that the new Baghdad security plan is actually working, at least in the center of the city, and it's maybe pushing the violence out to other areas?
WARE: No, no, not really, not at all.
I mean, the Baghdad security plan is certainly having an impact on the militias, on the death squads, on the insurgents here in the city. But what it's doing is just reshaping the nature of the violence. It's watching it squeeze. It's like when you squeeze a balloon, and the different ends change shapes.
The insurgents are merely melting back into the population, sitting back, watching how the Americans and the Iraqi security forces are operating, and adapting their tactics.
Sure, there's a degree of displacement. That's insurgents and militias moving to other areas temporarily. We've seen that time and time again. That's almost, without doubt, happening now.
But, by and large, violence still continues in this city. We're seeing multiple car bombing attacks, almost every day, killing dozens.
CHETRY: All right, Michael Ware, for us in Baghdad, with more on the new news about those dirty chlorine bombs they're using there, thank you.
Click photo to play
JOHN KING: ...killed in Baghdad, dozens more wounded. Plus, a suicide car bomb killed 13 people in the southern city of Najaf. All this on the one year anniversary of the bombing at the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
Tonight, a special report on the impact of that bombing. We want to warn you, some of this video is very graphic and can be difficult to watch. This attack at one of the world's most important Shiite mosques set off a wave of retaliation and sectarian violence that continues today.
CNN has chosen not to show any actual executions, but a warning again, this video may be difficult to watch, but it's critically important.
Here's CNN's Michael Ware.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These men are going to die. Shia, accused of being militia members, executed by Sunni hardliners because they believe in a different brand of Islam.
Their deaths displayed in this slickly produced video by the Iraqi guerrilla group Ansar al-Sunna, loosely affiliated to al Qaeda. This footage, typical of images released by Ansar al-Sunna and seen on Iraqi TV stations, was distributed by the group in the last few weeks.
And as Sunnis kill Shia, so too, Shia kill Sunnis. Like these men, kidnapped, tortured, their bodies -- hands still bound -- dumped in a Baghdad neighborhood controlled by a Shia militia. Dozens of bodies appear on the capital streets every morning.
To Iraqis, this is civil war. What it looks like, what it is. A daily accumulation of terrible moments. Just like these. Borne by families on both sides of Iraq's sectarian divide. Sectarian violence has plagued Iraq almost since the invasion itself. But its full fury was not unleashed until one year ago -- February 22, 2006, when this holy place was blown apart.
The Golden Dome shrine in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. Its bombing so incendiary, moderate Shia leaders who had managed to hold back their faithful in the face of violent provocation for nearly two years finally lost control.
The weeks after the bombing -- said to be by al Qaeda, though it never claimed responsibility -- saw scores of Sunni mosques attacked. This one raked with machine gunfire. The blood of its attendants staining the floor.
What had been ad hoc sectarian attacks turned into systematic widespread campaigns of ethnic cleansing, roaming death squads and indiscriminate suicide bombings.
Included in the insurgent video, a sermon by a senior Shia cleric calling for revenge against Sunnis just days, says a Mehdi army source, after the Samarra bombing.
HAZIM AL-ARAJI, SENIOR SADR SHIITE CLERIC (through translator): If you want somebody to tell you to kill and there is no one, I tell you to kill. I take responsibility. Kill any Wahhabi. Kill any Baathist.
WARE: A top aide to the radical Shia militia leader Muqtada al- Sadr, the cleric's words used on this insurgent video as a warning to fellow Sunnis.
AL-ARAJI (through translator): It's your responsibility, my responsibility and the responsibility of every cleric and tribal leader to mobilize a devout Shiite army to kill Baathist takfiri. The Imam orders you to kill.
WARE: Though Mehdi army sources say he was quickly ordered to curb his public anger, the sentiment was widely felt.
This civil war -- sparked by the Samarra bombing, defined by the bloodletting that followed -- is the legacy of this man, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, the al Qaeda in Iraq leader assassinated by a U.S. missile in June.
He planned it from the beginning, as this letter, intercepted and released by U.S. intelligence agencies and the coalition administration in February 2004 clearly outlines.
Zarqawi, an extremist Sunni, described Shia as the most evil of mankind and believed only by provoking them into the kind of violence seen in the wake of Samarra would the slumbering Sunni nation awake and eventually emerge victorious.
One year on, death squads the U.S. military says are protected by and hidden within Iraq's police forces, haunt a terrified Sunni community. Al Qaeda assassination teams and car bomb attacks slaughter Shia in their neighborhoods. Unknown bodies float down the Tigris River. And Iraq is much closer to what Zarqawi wanted it to be.
KING: Michael Ware joins us now live from Baghdad.
Michael, gruesome images of the toll of the insurgency there. You mentioned the letter the Americans intercepted from Zarqawi. How closely did it predict the state of Iraq today?
WARE (on camera): Well, John, it's chilling, actually, to read this Zarqawi document that he wrote way back in 2003, was intercepted, handed to Western intelligence agencies and then made public in 2004, because it maps out virtually what we are seeing now here on the ground.
This was essentially what the then-U.S. mission described as Zarqawi's action plan. He was spelling out to Osama bin Laden, "this is how I see the situation. This is what I think we need to do. This is the way forward." Key to that was sparking civil war of the very kind that you have now in Iraq.
He also spoke about galvanizing the Sunni insurgency, infusing Jihad into it, bringing in the concept of suicide or martyrdom operations. He mapped it out. This is one of the most influential or significant documents of the war so far.
KING: Michael Ware, another fascinating glimpse for us. Gruesome, but very important to understanding the story.
Michael, thank you. Joining us live from Baghdad.