The U.S. Army was immediately aware the explosion that killed 22 people in a military mess hall in northern Iraq last week likely was caused by a suicide bomber and not a rocket attack, and mortar attacks may have been planned to coincide with the arrival of casualties, the chief emergency room surgeon who treated the injuries told WorldNetDaily.

Army Maj. Dr. Michael Cohen

“All the patients were talking about it [being a possible suicide bombing],” Army Maj. Dr. Michael Cohen, chief ER surgeon at the U.S. base in Mosul, said in an exclusive interview yesterday. “They described to us what happened, that there was a blast inside the tent. Kind of a big fireball. And everyone described improvised explosives, something homemade, not a rocket. There was speculation it was a suicide attack.”

In spite of the immediate claim of responsibility by the Iraqi terror group Ansar al Sunna — which announced it had carried out a suicide bombing and later released a video of what it said was the attack — the Army last week said the explosion may have been caused by a rocket or planted device, although it did not rule out the possibility of a suicide bombing.

U.S. military investigators later concluded the blast near Mosul Dec. 21 was indeed a suicide attack.

Army Maj. Dr. Michael Cohen, left, at work in Mosul

The bomber apparently packed ball bearings around a bomb strapped to his body to maximize the amount of shrapnel that tore through the crowd at noon, when the greatest number of soldiers would be present, said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The description is consistent with what Cohen told WorldNetDaily today.

“A lot of patient X-rays showed they had ball bearings inside them, which is inconsistent with a mortar or rocket,” he said. “It shows it was a homemade bomb. Some people had entire nails and screws inside their bodies. This is sometimes what suicide bombers put in the bomb to maximize injuries.”

In a possible additional dimension to the attack, Cohen said the terror group may have planned mortar attacks for the arrival of mass casualties at the Mosul Army hospital.

“It seemed the [mortar] attacks on the hospital were planned to coincide with the arrival of casualties. … Our immediate focus was getting everyone into the hospital.”

Ansar al-Sunna has issued a video on the group’s website showing what appears to be the explosion at the dining hall of the Marez camp in Mosul — the deadliest attack against Americans since the beginning of the war.

The U.S. military said it appeared likely an individual in an Iraqi military uniform, who was probably wearing an explosive-laden vest, carried out the attack. The Mosul base also is used by the Iraqi National Guard.

The head of Iraq’s armed forces, Gen. Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari, said the bomber could have easily obtained an Iraqi uniform.

“Certainly he was not a member of the National Guard, because all of our men stationed in the base have been accounted for,” said Zebari.

“Uniforms of National Guards, police and army are available in the market,” said Zebari. “It is not difficult for a person to wear one.”

Cohen told WND he expects violence in Iraq to increase as the Jan. 30 elections draw closer.

“It certainly seems the violence has increased over the last several weeks, probably due to elections. At the same time, our troops are doing an incredible job, and I think we’re prepared to handle it.”

Read full interview with Army Maj. Dr. Michael Cohen

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