Iraq: Arrests made in ministry truck bombings

Workers clear the site outside the ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs in Baghdad.
The Iraqi government said Friday it has arrested members of a cell believed responsible for Wednesday’s truck bombings in which more than 100 people were killed.

Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command, appeared on Iraqi state television Friday night to announce the arrests, which he said were made within two hours of the bombings in the capital city. Those arrested include people believed to have planned and executed the attacks, Atta said. It was not immediately clear how many people were arrested. Initial investigations show a link between the cell and the ousted Baath regime of Saddam Hussein, Atta said. Authorities are also seeking people thought to have provided cell members with logistical support and identification, he said. Iraq Security Forces recovered a truck Friday with five tons of C-4 explosives in the Abu Ghraib area, on the western outskirts of Baghdad, Atta said Friday night. More than 500 people were wounded Wednesday in the six explosions in Baghdad. In one attack, a truck bomb exploded outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The blast blew through the front of the building, sending some vehicles flying and leaving others in mangled twists of metal in the area, which is just outside the restricted International Zone, also known as the Green Zone. Another truck bomb went off outside the Ministry of Finance building. Authorities said Thursday that 11 high-ranking security officials from the Iraqi army and police were detained for investigation.

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The Iraqi government in the past has made claims of arrests that did not hold up. In April, it said it had captured Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq’s umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq denied it, and the capture was never confirmed by the U.S. military. The explosions made Wednesday the country’s deadliest day since the United States pulled its combat troops from Iraqi cities and towns nearly two months ago and left security in the hands of the Iraqis. The U.S. military remains in a training and advisory capacity in those areas and continues to conduct combat operations outside cities and towns.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered increased security measures, including more checkpoints and more stringent vehicle searches across the capital, government officials said on Thursday. The Iraqi government has been trying to restore what it described as normalcy to the streets of the capital in recent weeks. Al-Maliki ordered his government to take down within 40 days the concrete blast walls that line Baghdad’s streets and protected neighborhoods at the height of the war. Many Iraqis have criticized the move as premature.