BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq on Sunday for the first time said that the bombers who killed more than 150 people in Baghdad on October 25 came from neighbouring Syria, but steered well clear of accusing Damascus of collusion.
“The group came from Syria but we are not accusing Syria again,” said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh on state television.
His comments followed the broadcast of confessions from three men said to have plotted the two massive bombings in the Iraqi capital that killed 153 people and wounded hundreds.
Iraq’s relations with Syria plummeted when it accused Damascus of sheltering suspects whom Baghdad said orchestrated similar deadly attacks on government buildings in Baghdad on August 19, killing 100 people.
The diplomatic spat in the days after the bombings triggered a mutual recall of ambassadors, and there has been no recovery in ties since.
Iraq had not previously linked Syrians to the October blasts.
“We have proof that condemns all those who justify terrorist acts from groups based in Syria,” Dabbagh said.
“I imagine that there are some countries in the area that support these people because those countries until now are not convinced that these groups could be a danger to them.”
The earlier televised confessions, however, were by members of the Baath party, the outlawed political movement of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. Baathists are also blamed for mounting deadly attacks throughout Iraq.
Dabbagh added: “What we showed to the journalists today represents only part of the confessions. There are lots of names and secret information that we cannot reveal.”
Major General Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi army’s Baghdad division, said the men confessed to a judge that they orchestrated the bombings that hit the justice ministry and the capital’s local government headquarters.
Two of the three men had been officers in Saddam’s army, and in recordings shown to reporters they said a Saudi national assisted them as they drove three cars from Taji, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Baghdad.
The cars contained explosives that were transferred days later to the truck and minibus used in the attacks, according to the broadcast.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on November 10 announced the arrest of 73 people from the Baath party and Al-Qaeda whom he said were implicated in the attacks, the deadliest to hit Iraq in more than two years.
Separately on Sunday, a senior local government official was arrested northeast of Baghdad in connection with suspected terrorist activity, officials said.
“The second vice-governor of the province of Diyala, Mohammed Sakaa, a member of the Islamic party, was stopped this evening at his home in the centre of Baquba by forces of the ministry of the interior,” a security official said.