A middle-aged woman suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has been arrested in Iraq, a senior officer said today.
Samira Ahmed Jassim, 51, confessed to sending 28 of the women to carry out attacks, Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, a Baghdad security spokesman, said. She was captured at an undisclosed location a fortnight ago.
He played a video of her apparent confession at a news conference.
Jassim, dressed in traditional black Islamic robes, is shown appearing to confess to recruiting and training women to become human bombs.
She also described how she would escort the women to an orchard for insurgent training. Finally she spoke of how she would lead them to their targets.
In a prison interview with the Associated Press -- with interrogators nearby -- she said that she helped to organize the rapes of young women and then stepped in to persuade the victims to become suicide bombers as their only escape from the shame.
The AP was allowed access to the prisoner on condition that the information would not be released until her arrest was formally announced.
Major-General al-Moussawi said that Jassim was a member of Ansar al-Sunna, a Sunni Arab militant group.
"Our intelligence information and tips from residents showed she directly supervised training of more than 80 female terrorists in Baghdad and Diyala," he told reporters. Diyala, a volatile province northeast of the capital, has suffered a spate of female suicide attacks over the past year.
Jassim, nicknamed Um al-Mumenin (the mother of the believers), is heard in the video apparently confessing to training a female bomber who attacked a police station in Diyala.
"I was introduced to her, I began talking to her," she said. She had to talk to one elderly woman several times before persuading her to blow herself up at a bus station, she added.
She spent a fortnight recruiting another woman, a teacher, and had problems with the woman's husband and his family, according to the confession. This woman also went on to blow herself up.
Major-General al-Moussawi said: "She confessed to training more than 28 female suicide bombers, all of whom conducted operations in different parts of Iraq."
Al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups are accused of deploying female suicide bombers because they are hard to detect at checkpoints, which are typically manned by male guards who only frisk men.
It is also easy to conceal explosives under the black robes worn by many women. At least 36 female suicide bombers attempted or carried out 32 attacks last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military data.