Iraq says bomber had been detainee

Government fears violence will rise

By Qassim Abdul-Zahra
Associated Press / August 31, 2009

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BAGHDAD - The suicide truck bomber who targeted Iraq’s Foreign Ministry in one of the most deadly attacks this year had recently been freed from US custody, an Iraqi investigator said yesterday, raising fresh concerns that former detainees will return to violence.

The revelation came as the government added more fodder to its allegations that Syria has been used as a launching pad for violence in Iraq, broadcasting a confession from a man who said he received militant training in the neighboring country.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken the Aug. 19 bombings that devastated the foreign and finance ministries and killed about 100 people personally as they dealt a major blow to confidence in his administration and security forces just two months after most US forces pulled back from urban areas.

The attacks have undermined his efforts to portray himself as a champion of security and restore a sense of normalcy in the capital ahead of January’s parliamentary elections.

A senior Iraqi investigator said the man who carried out the attack against the Foreign Ministry was a former detainee at the US detention camp known as Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.

The bomber left his identification card at a checkpoint in order to be allowed to approach the Foreign Ministry and police were able to track down his background, according to the investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information.

The Americans have been releasing detainees or transferring them to Iraqi custody to comply with a security pact that took effect on Jan. 1, but some Iraqis have complained that those freed from custody have returned to violence. The number of detainees in US custody dropped to 8,947 from a high of 27,000 in 2007, the lowest it has been in more than four years, the US military said yesterday.

“We work very closely with the Iraqi government to ensure releases and transfers are conducted in a safe and orderly manner,’’ Captain Brad Kimberly, a spokesman for US detainee operations, said in the statement.