35 Iraqi officials arrested over trying to revive Saddams Baath Party

December 18th, 2008 - 3:50 pm ICT by ANI  

Baghdad, Dec 18 (ANI): Thirty five Iraqi officials including four Iraqi generals have been arrested over the past three days, with some of them accused of quietly working to reconstitute Saddam Husseins Baath Party.

The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the Prime Ministers office, included four generals, one of whom, General Ahmed Abu Raqeef, is the ministrys director of internal affairs.

The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counter-terrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, The New York Times reported.

The involvement of the counter-terrorism unit speaks to the seriousness of the accusations, and several officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security said that some of those arrested were in the early stages of planning a coup.

None of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the subject, provided details about that allegation.

Rumors of coups, conspiracies and new alliances abound in the Iraqi capital a month before provincial elections. Critics of Maliki say he has been using arrests to consolidate power, the paper said.

But senior security officials said there was significant evidence tying those arrested to a wide array of political corruption charges, including affiliation with Al Awda, or the Return, a descendant of the Baath Party, which ruled the country as a dictatorship for 35 years, mostly under Hussein.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis died or were persecuted, including Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, by the Baath Party. It was outlawed after the American invasion in 2003.

A high-ranking Interior Ministry official said those affiliated with Al Awda had paid bribes to other officers to recruit them and huge amounts of money had been found in raids, the NYT reported.

He said there could be more arrests. Some of those arrested were members of the now-illegal party under Husseins government. Malikis office declined to comment officially.

But one Maliki adviser, insisting that he not be named because he was not authorized to speak, said the detainees were involved in a conspiracy. (ANI)

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