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Iraq's al-Qaida claims Baghdad government bombings

 Baghdad municipality workers remove destroyed cars in front of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, center, in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. Nearly ...
 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and aides stand near a crater left by a truck bomb outside the foreign ministry building in Baghdad, Iraq, Monda...
 Iraqi security forces are seen in rubble from a truck bomb outside the foreign ministry building in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009.  Twin truck...
 Iraqis wounded recent blasts in Baghdad, arrive in Amman aboard a Jordanian plane for medical treatment, at Marka Airport in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, ...

Iraq Violence

Baghdad municipality workers remove destroyed cars in front of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, center, in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. Nearly ...

Iraq Foreign Ministry Bombing

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and aides stand near a crater left by a truck bomb outside the foreign ministry building in Baghdad, Iraq, Monda...

Iraq Foreign Ministry Bombing

Iraqi security forces are seen in rubble from a truck bomb outside the foreign ministry building in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. Twin truck...

APTOPIX Mideast Jordan Iraq

Iraqis wounded recent blasts in Baghdad, arrive in Amman aboard a Jordanian plane for medical treatment, at Marka Airport in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, ...

An al-Qaida front group claimed responsibility Tuesday for last week's suicide truck bombings that tore through government ministries in Baghdad, while Iraq recalled its ambassador from Syria and demanded that Damascus hand over two suspected Saddam Hussein loyalists it has linked to the attacks.
The Iraqi government has blamed an alliance between al-Qaida and former members of Saddam's ousted Baath Party and aired a televised confession of a suspected planner who claimed that two operatives in Syria had ordered the attacks.
One of the chief investigators of the Aug. 19 attacks, which killed more than 100 people, said the Iraqis believe the planner and the financier were Baathists based in Syria. One of the bombers was an al-Qaida operative and the other was a Baathist, he said.
The investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, said the al-Qaida statement claiming responsibility was probably an effort to divert attention from the Baathist link.
Such links are politically explosive, particularly ahead of January elections in Iraq.
The question of what to do with Saddam-era officials in the civil service, army and police has been at the heart of the Sunni-Shiite divide since the overthrow of Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime in 2003 and has been a major hurdle to national reconciliation efforts.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi ambassador to Syria has been recalled to Baghdad and demanded that Syria turn over two purported Iraqi Baathists identified as Mohammed Younis al-Ahmed and Satam Farhan who have been linked to the attacks.
The Cabinet also has asked that steps be taken to form an international criminal court to try war criminals who planned attacks against Iraqi civilians, al-Dabbagh said.
"The Iraqi cabinet also demanded that the Syrian government push out all terrorist organizations using Syria as a base to launch terrorist operations against the Iraqis," al-Dabbagh said in a statement after a Cabinet meeting.
The Aug. 19 bombings occurred a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and called on Damascus to hand over people suspected of Sunni insurgent links and to stop fighters from crossing the border into northern Iraq.
Al-Maliki has been eager to show the government has control of the investigation as he has come under heavy criticism for the bombings that raised concern over how Iraqi security forces allowed the bombers to get so close to key government institutions.
The attacks occurred less than two months after most U.S. forces pulled back from urban areas, turning over security in Baghdad and other cities to the Iraqis.
The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group led by al-Qaida, said in an Internet statement that "with God's grace," their "sons launched a new blessed attack at the heart of wounded Baghdad."
It added that the attacks against the finance, foreign and defense ministries were meant to "wreck the bastions of infidelity" that belong to what it described as al-Maliki's pro-Iranian government.
The U.S. military has said the blasts bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, which is known for its massive vehicle bombings and suicide attacks.
The al-Qaida statement said it sought to kill government officials. The explosions "shook the earth under their feet and tore apart their hearts of fear and horror, proving to everyone the weakness of their government."
Al-Qaida signature attacks until now have mostly seemed designed to fuel sectarian tensions and push the country back to the Sunni-Shiite violence of 2006 and 2007 that nearly led to civil war.
Wednesday's bombings differed because they hit symbols of state authority and appeared aimed at having a far-reaching political impact, further undermining the government and casting fresh doubt on the ability of Iraqi security forces following the departure of U.S. forces from major cities on June 30.
Allegations linking Saddam loyalists to explosions are not new. Hard-line Shiite politicians have been increasingly mentioning the Baathists as partners with al-Qaida. However, a branch of the Baath party, now based in Syria, issued a statement denouncing the attacks.
The purported operatives in Syria were identified as ordering the bombings in a televised confession by a detained Sunni man the government said was the suspected mastermind of the bombing against the Finance Ministry.
The 57-year-old suspect, wearing a gray and white striped shirt, identified himself as Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim and said he was a Baath Party member and former police officer from the Diyala province city of Muqdadiyah, north of Baghdad.
The attackers paid $10,000 to a facilitator who knew the Iraqi security forces manning the checkpoints on the roads from Muqdadiyah to the Finance Ministry, Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim said the operation was ordered a month ago by al-Ahmed and Farhan in Syria in a bid "to destabilize the regime."
The Iraqi government has promised to broadcast more confessions in coming days.
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Associated Press Writers Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-16 12:07 GMT+08:00