- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2009

BAGHDAD | 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.

Iraqi lawmakers and other senior officials have traded blame and called for investigations into how the bombers were able to get the explosives-packed trucks so close to government institutions in the heart of the capital.

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.

Wednesday’s twin bombings, which also devastated the Foreign Ministry, have battered Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to portray himself as a champion of security before January’s parliamentary elections. The government has been eager to assert control over the investigation, announcing arrests but giving few details.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said he was extremely concerned by the attacks.

“The key is whether this is an indicator of future sectarian violence. And certainly, many of us believe that one way that this can come unwound is through sectarian violence,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The message is that the Iraqi leadership really has to take control and ensure security in their country.”

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, Mr. Ibrahim said. That blast caused part of an overpass to collapse and killed nearly 30 people.

Mr. Ibrahim said the operation was ordered a month ago by a Ba’ath Party operative in Syria in a bid “to destabilize the regime.”

Gen. al-Moussawi said more than 10 people comprising the whole network involved in the attacks have been arrested, but aired only Ibrahim’s confession. He did not mention the Foreign Ministry but said other confessions would be shown in coming days.

Public confidence has been badly shaken, dealing a major blow to a government eager to demonstrate that it can take over responsibility for the country’s security from U.S. combat troops, who pulled back from urban areas June 30 with plans for a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

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.

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