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Baghdad governor: Sunni MPs may be arrested for bombing

Gov. Salah Abdel-Razzaq also says that Saudi Arabia may be connected to last week's truck bombs that killed more than 100 people. His comments highlight the level of mistrust between the Shiite-led government and Sunni political parties.

By Jane ArrafCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / August 23, 2009

Men gathered Sunday in a Baghdad barbershop to watch a videotaped confession of a Sunni man identified by security officials as the mastermind of one of two suicide truck bombings that targeted government buildings last week.

Hadi Mizban/ AP

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Baghdad, Iraq

Iraqi authorities are considering arresting some Sunni members of parliament in connection with the truck bombs that killed more than 100 people in a devastating attack against key government ministries this week, according to the governor of Baghdad.

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Salah Abdel-Razzaq, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor Sunday, said the government has obtained photos and other evidence from members of a group accused of carrying out the attack indicating they were acting under orders of the parliamentarians.

"We are now investigating what happened and who is involved – maybe our security personnel ... maybe politicians. We need maybe to have some orders to arrest those who are suspected," says Dr. Abdel-Razzaq. The governor, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party, confirmed he was referring to Sunni members of parliament but declined to give names.

Arrest warrants are issued by the Interior Ministry and it is unclear whether the politically explosive move would be undertaken, but the governor's comments indicate the level of mistrust between the Shiite-led government and Sunni political parties highlighted since the bombing. And in an indication of what is still a deep divide between the Shiite-led Iraqi government and its Sunni neighbors, the governor accused Saudi Arabia of funding the suicide bombers.

"The Baathist agents are supported by some Arab countries – especially Saudi Arabia," he says. "Their terrorist actions cost money also so it isn't just a small terrorist organization [behind the attack] – there is a state behind this."

Saudi connection?

Abdel-Razzaq, confirming that he believed Saudi Arabia was connected to the truck bombing, says they are trying to weaken confidence in the current Iraqi government and its ability to protect its citizens in an attempt to influence parliamentary elections in January.

Saudi Arabia, which says it has taken measures to crack down on the flow of foreign fighters from its territory to Iraq, denies that it supports the Sunni insurgents.

Iraqi authorities have blamed the attack, the worst in 18 months, on former Baathists and Al Qaeda operatives, but his remarks were the first implicating members of the Iraqi parliament. The attack on the foreign and finance ministries has sparked accusations between political parties, government officials and security leaders over who was to blame for major security lapses.

Video confession aired

Abdul-Rizzaq visited the site of the Foreign Ministry bombing on Sunday and spoke to survivors, some of whom who are now homeless. He said that the government would provide money and assistance with repairing homes, and that it would replace vehicles damaged or destroyed in the blast.

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the chief military spokesman for Baghdad, on Sunday announced the arrest of what he called the mastermind of one of the bombings and aired a video confession.

The suspect said he was a former police officer from Diyala province and leader of a wing of the revived Baath Party, which was loyal to executed former president Saddam Hussein.

Al Qaeda and baathists

Iraqi officials have blamed the attacks on a coalition of Baathists and Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives. The Baghdad governor, who flew back from a visit to London on Saturday, says evidence indicates that the Baathists used their knowledge of the capitol and its security vulnerabilities to plan the attack and had Al Qaeda suicide bombers execute it.

"These attacks, these explosions don't have military aims. They have political goals," says Abdel-Razzaq. "There people want to give the national opinion that security isn't guaranteed in Baghdad and that the prime minister and the government can't give you security so that means that you should change this government – that's the message. It is very clear."

Improving security

On Thursday, city workers began re-erecting concrete blast walls which had been removed from near the foreign ministry and other government buildings in line with a plan to reduce security measures in light of declining attacks.

Those plans are now being reviewed.

"I think we have to review our strategy," says the governor. "There are some weak points in some parts of the road, some streets that are not well controlled and also maybe our personnel – police officers that are not doing their job." He says some checkpoints which would have been dismantled will likely remain, while the governorate will begin using large scanners to more reliably detect explosives in vehicles.

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