On August 18, 2009 two truck bombs struck the Finance and Foreign Ministries in central Baghdad. The blasts killed at least 101 and wounded 1203. In the aftermath, Iraqi officials and newspapers blamed any and everyone. Azzaman newspaper reported that Iranian backed Special Groups were responsible. A source in the Iraqi National Intelligence Service told columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post that the explosives used were similar to those made in Iran. The mayor of Baghdad said that the government had photos and evidence implicating Sunni members of parliament, and that Baathists and Al Qaeda in Iraq, funded by Saudi Arabia, had carried it out. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the Iraqi security forces must have collaborated for such an attack to be so successful, and 11 officers were arrested immediately afterward.
Beginning on August 22, the Iraqi government began announcing the arrests of suspects connected to the Baath Party. On that day, the Baghdad Operations Command reported that it had arrested a man involved in the bombings who admitted that he was a Baathist. Later that day Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that more suspects had been picked up as well. On August 23 the Baghdad Operations Command aired a taped confession of one of the arrestees who said that he was a former policeman from the Muqdadiya district of Diyala and a Baathist. He claimed that the truck bomb on the Finance Ministry was put together in Muqdadiya, and that he paid $10,000 in bribes to get it through security checkpoints. Two Baathist officials in Syria were said to have ordered the attack. Other confessions were supposed to be coming, and a military spokesman said guards at three checkpoints in Diyala had been arrested. On August 25 the Iraqi cabinet demanded that Damascus turn over the two Baathists to Baghdad, followed by Maliki’s spokesman calling on Syria to expel or turnover all terrorists in the country. This began a war of words between the two countries with Iraq withdrawing its ambassador to Syria and then Syria doing the same. The timing of these accusations were odd as well as Maliki had just gone to Damascus and promoted closer ties between the two the day before the bombing. Not only that but the Baathists in Syria denied involvement.
Then the government began promoting a completely different story. On August 25 Al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks on a website. On August 29 the Interior Ministry reported that it had arrested 14 suspects from a terrorist cell that were behind the bombings. The men led authorities to a bomb factory in the Ghazaliyah district of Baghdad and were allegedly members of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Both of the suicide bombers involved in the attack were supposedly released from the American prison Camp Bucca a few months ago. This of course, contradicts the video taped confession aired on the 23rd that said Baathists from Diyala, taking orders from others in Syria, were responsible.
The Iraqi government has announced questionable arrests and deaths, and aired suspicious confessions before. In April 2009 for example, they claimed to have captured the prince of the Islamic State of Iraq Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. In May the government aired a taped confession by their prisoner, but that was quickly contradicted by new speeches by Baghdadi that experts said matched the voice used in previous releases. Iraqi officials also could not get their story straight on Baghdadi’s background. Even earlier in May 2007 the Interior Ministry claimed they had killed Baghdadi in a shootout in Salahaddin. Coincidentally, the supposed arrest of Baghdadi in April coincided with a new wave of bombings in Baghdad by insurgents.
The August 19 bombings were obviously a shock to the Iraqi government and public. They were the largest blasts since 2008, and came after Prime Minister Maliki had been bragging that he had secured the country. In its rush to show that it had the situation under control and could provide security once again, Baghdad blamed everyone from Al Qaeda in Iraq to Baathists to Sunni politicians to Saudi Arabia to Iran to Syria. The fact that they came up with two completely different stories didn’t seem to bother the authorities because either one was easily believable by the Iraqi public as Baathists and Al Qaeda in Iraq get blamed for almost every terrorist act in the country. Baghdad has also not been beyond airing questionable confessions by insurgents after attacks in the past. The point was to protect the government’s image as much as finding the suspects. Whether the real parties responsible will or have been found is unknown since Baghdad has played with the story so much. Finding the truth then, has been another casualty in these bombings.
Arraf, Janes, “Baghdad governor: Sunni MPs may be arrested for bombing,” Christian Science Monitor, 8/23/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “11 officers arrested after Baghdad bombings – Qassem Atta,” 8/20/09
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- “Cabinet urges Syria to hand over suspected bombers,” 8/25/09
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Dawn Media Group, “Iraq ministry bombers had been ‘recently freed’ by US,” 8/30/09
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Iraq The Model, “Azzaman: Special Groups Responsible for Wednesday’s Rocket and Mortar Attacks,” 8/20/09
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Kazimi, Nibras, “’Al-Baghdad’ on TV,” Talisman Gate Blog, 5/18/09
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- “More Twists in the ‘al-Baghdadi’ Sage,” Talisman Gate Blog, 5/22/09
Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraq Military Broadcasts Confession on Bombing,” New York Times, 8/23/09
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Sands, Phil, “A safe haven in Damascus,” The National, 8/29/09
Santora, Marc, “Iraqis Demand Syria Turn Over Suspects,” New York Times, 8/25/09
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Sly, Liz, “Al Qaeda-linked group claims two recent Baghdad bombings that killed 95,” Los Angeles Times, 8/26/09
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