Iraq asserts 2 suspected in bombing are in Syria
BAGHDAD - An Al Qaeda front group claimed responsibility yesterday 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 believed linked to the attacks.
The Iraqi government has blamed an alliance between Al Qaeda and former members of Saddam’s ousted Ba’ath Party and aired a televised confession of a suspected planner who said 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 Ba’athists based in Syria. One of the bombers was an Al Qaeda operative and the other was a Ba’athist, he said.
The investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information, said the Al Qaeda statement claiming responsibility was probably an effort to divert attention from the Ba’athist link.
Such links are politically explosive, particularly before 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-Shi’ite 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.