U.S. Military Foil Plot To Blow Up Girl's School In Iraq

The U.S. Military claims to have foiled an Al Qaeda plot to blow up a girl's school north of Baghdad. A school building rigged with heavy duty explosives was discovered in Tarmiya last Sunday.

First cavalry division soldiers along with local council members were on their way to the Huda Girl's School for a routine inspection; it is part of a local reconstruction project and due to open within the next six weeks.

Lt. Col. Scott Efflandt, who was part of Sunday's inspection team, described to ABC News what happened, "As we walked up to the school, we noticed a piece of wire that looked out of place. The school had been bombed previously, a month ago, while we were there doing inspections. We saw the indicators of a bomb this time and we backed out and called the explosive ordinance disposal team."

The team discovered a series of bombs strategically placed throughout the building - in the ceilings, hallways, classrooms and underneath the two main stairwells – capable of bringing the entire building down.

"There were 13 different bombs. There were two different types of artillery shells and then there were two propane tanks filled with homemade explosives. They were all to detonate at once" says Effandt.

The U.S. military, citing the scale and sophistication of the plot, believes it was masterminded by Al Qaeda in Iraq and that the intention was to blow up the school when the girl's were in attendance.

According to Effandt, "the only reason we can think that it was still standing and had not already been detonated is that they were waiting for the children to enter the school so they could cause as spectacular an event as possible".

Terrorism expert, Sajjan Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation, believes the plot shows signs of a Sunni insurgent plan rather than the work of Shia militia, "the [Sunni] insurgents have implanted explosives and devices in reconstruction projects before, encasing them inside the buildings."

"Sunnis have used schools in the past to store weapons, often intimidating the staff into allowing this, but it would be a new departure if they were actually targeting schools." Gohel adds.

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