BEIRUT – An al-Qaida-linked group fighting in Syria has released video of the first American to carry out a suicide attack in the country’s civil war, showing him smiling and saying he looked forward to going to heaven.
The Nusra Front released the video late Friday showing U.S. citizen Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, 22, with other fighters before the May 25 attack that targeted several army positions at the same time. It said two of the other three suicide attackers in the assault in the government-held northwestern city of Idlib were from foreign countries, including one who was identified as being from the Maldives.
Abu-Salha appears smiling in the video and speaks in broken Arabic.
I want to rest in the afterlife, in heaven. There is nothing here and the heart is not resting, Abu-Salha says. Heaven is better. When people die they either go to heaven or hell. There is happiness beyond explanation.
The video, released by Nusra Front’s media arm, al-Manara al-Baydha, was posted on jihadi websites. It corresponded with Associated Press reporting about the attack and Abu-Salha.
Opposition forces previously identified the American who carried out the bombing as Abu Hurayra al-Amriki and said he was a U.S. citizen. The name al-Amriki means the American in Arabic.
It’s unknown how many people were killed in the bombing. Opposition rebels with the Nusra Front said Abu-Salha’s truck was laden with 16 tons of explosives to tear down the al-Fanar restaurant, a gathering site for Syrian troops. The other suicide attackers targeted nearby army positions.
Abu-Salha grew up in Florida and attended several colleges before dropping out and moving abroad.
Thousands of foreign fighters have come to Syria from around the world to fight against President Bashar Assad’s forces after the uprising against his government began three years ago.
The war has since taken on sectarian overtones, pitting a Sunni-led insurgency that includes al-Qaida-inspired extremists against a government dominated by Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.