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Sun 22 Feb 2009 10:41 PM

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Iraq lawmaker accused of bomb attacks

Iraq government seeks arrest of Sunni politician accused of arranging 2007 suicide bombing.

The government of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking the arrest of a Sunni politician accused of arranging a 2007 suicide bombing inside the Iraqi parliament and ordering a spate of other attacks.

Officials have asked parliament to lift the immunity of Mohammed al-Daini, a member of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, after issuing a warrant for his arrest and detaining two of his bodyguards, said Qassim Moussawi, a military spokesman.

Moussawi broadcast tapes at a news conference of the bodyguards, Riyadh Ibrahim al-Daini and Alaa al-Maliki, apparently recounting their involvement in a string of macabre acts they said were ordered by Daini - kidnappings, mortar attacks, car bombs.

"When 11 of Daini's security guards were killed ... he asked militant groups to abduct about 100 people - he wanted 10 people for each of his guards," one of the guards, who is also Daini's nephew, said in what Moussawi called a "confession".

Daini's nephew said his uncle was involved in the 2007 suicide bombing that killed eight people in parliament, a brazen attack in the heart of the heavily fortified Green Zone.

The bodyguard said they picked up a "guest" at Daini's office and dropped him off at a hotel in the Green Zone. He said the bomber later used Daini's identity card to enter parliament and then blew himself up in a cafe.

Reached on his cell phone, Daini said he would respond in a news conference on Monday. "They have the right to say anything they like and I have the right to give my answer," he said.

But speaking in parliament a day earlier, the lawmaker condemned what he called the unlawful arrest of his guards and pointed the finger at Maliki's special security force.

Just before the parliamentary attack in 2007, Iraqi security forces raided Daini's offices. Daini said between 25 to 30 employees were arrested.

The bodyguards also said he ordered sectarian killings in his home region of Diyala, an ethnically mixed province northeast of Baghdad, along with the displacement of Shi'ite families from certain parts of Baghdad.

The arrest order came amid speculation about the direction that Maliki, once an obscure technocrat but now increasingly assertive, will take after strengthening his hand considerably in last month's provincial elections.

Maliki, from the religious Dawa party, has moved more aggressively in the last year after gaining confidence in military campaigns against Shi'ite rivals last year and as US political power in Iraq becomes less pronounced.

Khalid al-Attiya, a Shi'ite Muslim who is heading the Iraqi parliament amid a prolonged row over choosing a new permanent speaker, said no official request to lift Daini's parliamentary immunity had been received.

"Parliament respects the Iraqi judiciary and would never interfere in the judicial process," he said. (Reuters)

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