TIME: Inside an Insurgent Camp


How sophisticated is the insurgency in Iraq? While U.S. commanders believe the insurgents are growing desperate, a recent wave of coordinated large-scale attacks--such as the series of bombings that killed at least 30 Iraqis in Baghdad in one day last week--suggests that some rebel groups have become more organized. Videotapes obtained by TIME from sources close to the insurgency appear to confirm the existence of makeshift training camps inside Iraq to teach recruits guerrilla warfare. The camps are tucked inside villages and conduct weapons-handling drills in remote fields. One tape shows four men in uniforms gathered in a dilapidated barracks facility in western Iraq and receiving instruction on how to fire a modified missile launcher. "We ask God to make this weak weapon strong by his strength," the instructor says. "God save Iraq from the Jews and the infidel." The second tape shows a group of 15 uniformed men practicing advancing under fire in a lush grove of trees and tall grass. In another scene, recruits navigate an obstacle course that requires them to climb stairs, crawl under barbed wire and dive through a flaming hoop.

Are such activities real? A top commander of the group shown in the first tape says the training camps are crucial to the insurgency, given that most recruits lack basic knowledge of the weaponry used against U.S. forces. The commander, who asked to be identified by his nom de guerre, Abu Lina, says the training video was made "to show the other resistance groups in Iraq that we have grown and developed." He says training camps are located in "places in Iraq the Americans do not control, nor can they see"--an assertion a Pentagon official does not dispute. "I know of no actual training camps," the official says. "But it's not outside the realm of possibility that they are there. We cannot be everywhere in the country."

--By Michael Ware. With reporting by Sally B. Donnelly