Iraqi lawmaker accused in parliament suicide blast
Sinan Salaheddin, Associated Press Writer – 58 mins ago AFP/File –
BAGHDAD – Iraqi authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a Sunni lawmaker accused of masterminding a series of high-profile attacks, including mortar strikes on the Green Zone and a 2007 suicide bombing inside the parliament building, a military official said Sunday.
The lawmaker, Mohammed al-Dayni, denied the allegations.
He was implicated in confessions from two former bodyguards — one of them al-Dayni's nephew — who were arrested last week, said Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi.
Tapes of their interrogations, which were played at a news conference, contained claims that al-Dayni sanctioned attacks and mobster-style raids that included killing gold merchants and looting their shops and burying alive at least 100 people as revenge for slayings of his gunmen.
The accusations could intensify tensions between the Shiite-led government and Sunni hard-liners who have resisted the U.S.-backed efforts at political reconciliation after years of sectarian bloodshed that pushed Iraq close to civil war. Sunni insurgents and others mounted sustained attacks on Shiites and the Shiite-led leadership, while Shiite militias were blamed for widespread reprisals on Sunnis.
Al-Dayni, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, rejected the charges as "untrue and baseless" and claimed he was targeted because of his "patriotic stances," which included calling attention to alleged rights violations in prison and suspected Iranian influence over Shiite political groups in Iraq.
"Before they accuse me, they should present evidence not baseless allegations," he said, refusing to give his precise location but adding that he did not plan to surrender to authorities.
Al-Moussawi told the AP that security forces were watching border crossings and airports after the arrest warrant was issued for al-Dayni. The government also asked parliament to take steps to strip al-Dayni's immunity from prosecution.
Al-Dayni, who is part of a small Sunni bloc in parliament led by Saleh al-Mutlaq, has been an outspoken critic of Shiite dominance in Iraqi affairs and has accused some Shiite groups of being puppets of Iran. Al-Dayni was elected in national elections in 2005 from the Diyala province, a mixed area that has been the scene of festering Sunni-Shiite tensions.
Iraqi security forces set up a cordon around al-Dayni's house in western Baghdad, arresting at least eight people inside and uncovering weapons and explosives hidden in ceiling pipes, said Col. Ali Omran.
The bodyguards claim al-Dayni was behind a wave of attacks, including mortar strikes on the Green Zone and the April 2007 suicide blast inside the parliament cafeteria that killed eight people, including a Sunni lawmaker.
One of the guards, Riadh Ibrahim Jassim Hussein al-Dayni — who is the lawmaker's nephew — told interrogators that he drove the bomber to a hotel inside the fortified Green Zone and the attacker entered parliament using al-Dayni's ID.
The ex-bodyguard claimed the attacker was handed the explosives belt by someone working in the cafeteria.
The attack embarrassed U.S. military authorities who were then in charge of securing the Green Zone.
The former bodyguard also described a spree of violence that he claimed was ordered by his uncle.
On the interrogation tape, he said he once took part in a raid on goldsmith shops in the Mansour section of western Baghdad. "We killed them and brought all the gold and money to Mohammed al-Dayni's office," he said.
In another incident, the former bodyguard said he was part of a group firing mortars into the Green Zone when a man began to yell at them to stop. He said a man, identified only by the nickname Haj Alaa, fired twice at the man.
"Then I hit him with four bullets which were followed by six other bullets by Haj Alaa. The man was killed," he said.
He also described raw vengeance by al-Dayni.
He said al-Dayni ordered random executions after 11 of his guards were killed in Diyala — directing militant groups in the province to round up 10 people for every one guard slain. He gave no further details of how the guards were killed or when the slayings occurred.
"They collected 100 to 110 persons. ... They were buried alive," he said.
Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.