Monday, August 24, 2009

Baghdad Bombings Cost $10,000 to Pass Checkpoint, Al-Qaeda Joined Ba'ath Party in Iraq

Attackers paid $10,000 to get a bomb-laden truck past checkpoints and next to the Iraqi Finance Ministry in last week's attacks, one of the suspected masterminds said in a confession broadcast Sunday. Seeking to fend off widespread criticism over security lapses, the Iraqi military released what it said was the confession of a Sunni man it identified as the planner of one of the two suicide truck bombings targeting government buildings in Baghdad.

Surveillance video widely broadcast on Iraqi television stations shows a truck carrying three large red water tanks in which the explosives were hidden approach the gate in front of the Foreign Ministry, which is next to the Green Zone. A refrigerated truck was used in the Finance Ministry attack. In all, at least 101 people were killed and hundreds others wounded in the series of midmorning blasts, which coincided with the sixth anniversary of the deadly bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said hundreds of fighters from Al Qaeda and other groups are now in Iraq. Wolfowitz also said "a great many" bin Laden operatives were trying to link up with remnants of Saddam's Ba'ath regime to attack Americans.

"We know it (Iraq) had a great deal to do with terrorism in general and with Al Qaeda in particular, and we know a great many of bin Laden's key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam Ba'athist regime to attack in Iraq," Wolfowitz said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

The link to Syria and the Baathists is politically explosive. 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.

The 57-year-old suspect, wearing a gray and white striped shirt, identified himself as Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim and said he was a Ba'ath 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. That blast caused part of an overpass to collapse and killed nearly 30 people.

Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim said he had joined the Baath Party in 1973 and traveled to Syria in July 2006 as sectarian violence raged in Baghdad. He returned to Iraq the next year. "I returned to Iraq in August 2007 in order to revive the Ba'ath organization, which was suffering badly in Muqdadiyah," he said in the televised confession. The Iraqi government has frequently trotted out suspects of bombings and other attacks for the media, often airing confessions on television.

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the chief military spokesman for Baghdad, said the man was a senior member of Saddam Hussein's ousted Ba'ath Party who had confessed to supervising the attack against the Finance Ministry before his lawyer and the chief prosecutor.

Al-Maliki and other Shiite politicians that an alliance of Al Qaeda and Saddam loyalists known as Ba'athists was to blame. The U.S. military said the attacks bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda in Iraq.Wisam Ali Khazim Ibrahim said the operation was ordered a month ago by a Ba'ath Party operative in Syria in a bid "to destabilize the regime." Al-Moussawi aired only Ibrahim's confession but said more than 10 people comprising the whole network involved in the attacks have been arrested. He did not mention the Foreign Ministry but said other confessions would be shown in coming days.

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