Baghdad security officials held in twin bombing investigation

Iraqi authorities wonder whether they played a role

Iraqis have questioned how bombers got near the Ministry of Justice on Sunday without being discovered at a checkpoint. Iraqis have questioned how bombers got near the Ministry of Justice on Sunday without being discovered at a checkpoint.
(Hadi Mizban/Associated Press
By Rebecca Santana
Associated Press / October 30, 2009

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BAGHDAD - Iraq detained dozens of security officials responsible for protecting the Baghdad district where twin suicide bombings this week killed 155 people, and authorities said yesterday that they are trying to determine whether they were negligent or had a role in the attack.

The blasts in the heart of the capital infuriated Iraqis, who question how the bombers could have driven their deadly cargo undetected through the multiple checkpoints that dot Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, facing a January election, has been under intense pressure to restore a sense of security and show that the military and police are able to take over when the Americans go home.

A military spokesman for the Iraqi capital, Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, said 11 army officers and 50 security officials were taken into custody over the bombings, which targeted the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad Provincial Administration.

The suspects were detained because they were responsible for protecting the area where the bombings occurred, Moussawi said. He said the investigation will determine whether they were negligent or actually helped the insurgents.

Other suspects have been detained, but Moussawi said these were the first arrests of security officials in relation to the Sunday blasts. The military commander and the police chief of Baghdad’s Salhiya district, where the bombs went off, were among those arrested, Moussawi said.

Iraqi officials have already said the two vehicles probably passed through a number of checkpoints before detonating.

But many Iraqis questioned whether the government was really going after the guilty or simply trying to show it is taking some sort of action.

Lawmaker Sheik Khalaf Al-Ilyan, the head of the Sunni political faction in Parliament, called for greater openness in the investigation, saying that Iraqis want more oversight and transparency of such security inquiries.

“I think this is a very dangerous step,’’ he said of the arrests.

Al Qaeda’s umbrella group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombings. Iraq’s prime minister blamed the bloodshed on Ba’athists and Al Qaeda. Iraqi officials have said the blasts were carried out by the same network behind bombings in August that also targeted government institutions, killing about 100 people.

Maliki rode to popularity as a leader who was able to bring peace to a shattered country. Violence in the country has dropped dramatically in recent years, but the new attacks in areas that are supposed to be some of the safest in the capital have undermined Iraqis’ sense of security.

Tim Brown, an intelligence and military analyst with, questioned whether the truth would ever come out of such an investigation. Trials are usually secret, he said.

News of the arrests was heard as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he is sending a senior UN official to Baghdad in response to a request from Iraq’s prime minister for an investigation into the August bombings.

Meanwhile, Kurdish lawmakers yesterday boycotted a Parliament session that was to tackle the law needed for January’s nationwide balloting. The election law has been held up over whether to use voter lists that favor the Kurds or the Arabs in the city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomen.

The Arabs and Turkmen resent what they perceive as Kurdish efforts to take over Kirkuk.