BAGHDAD — A Sunni Arab lawmaker is wanted in connection for a string of retaliation attacks and mortar strikes on the fortress-like Green Zone compound after a pair of his senior bodyguards stepped forward with incriminating confessions, a military official said Sunday.
The two ex-bodyguards said Sunni parliament member Mohammed al Dayni ordered them to carry out a 2007 attack on a Green Zone cafeteria in which a suicide bomber blew up his explosive vest. One lawmakers died and 22 others were wounded.
"They admitted and confessed to committing many crimes and terrorist attacks against the Iraqi people," Maj. Gen. Qassim al Moussawi said at a news conference.
Moussawi said Dayni was named by his former bodyguards, one of whom is his nephew, as the architect in executing the Green Zone attacks. Police arrested Riyadh Ibrahim Jassim Hussein al Dayni, Dayni's nephew, and Alaa Khairallah, his assistant, in connection with the case on Feb. 11 and Feb. 17.
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As a parliament member, Dayni enjoys immunity. Authorities aren't able to arrest Dayni or any other lawmakers until parliamentarians agree with an absolute majority vote to lift immunity.
Dayni could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The revelation of Dayni's alleged ties to the attacks could exacerbate tensions between Sunni and Shiite parliament members.
On Sunday, some lawmakers welcomed the authorities' issuing the arrest warrant for Dayni.
"Today we are so happy because 10,000 people have been victims of this guy," said Taha Dria, a member of the Shiite Alliance in parliament. "He misused his position and he harmed the parliament and he betrayed his oath."
Dayni is a prominent member of the National Dialogue Front, a Sunni-led political party. Mohammed Awad, the lawmaker who died in the 2007 Green Zone attack, belonged to this party.
In a taped confession, Dayni's nephew described how he carried out the dirty work for his uncle, picking up roadside explosives, robbing gold merchants and firing off mortar shells with an accomplice at the Green Zone, the 5.6-square-mile compound that houses the Iraqi parliament, the U.S. Embassy and other government offices.
"As we bombed the Green Zone with the three or four mortars, a guy came out of his house and said, 'What are you doing?" Riyadh Ibrahim Jassim Hussein al Dayni told investigators. "Haji Alaa shot him twice. Then I shot him four times. Haji Alaa shot him again with six bullets."
Riyadh Ibrahim Jassim Hussein al Dayni also confessed that a suicide bomber used Dayni's Green Zone badge to clear the compound's numerous security checkpoints to carry out the bombing on the parliament cafeteria, where lawmakers meet for lunch.
The suicide bomber then received an explosives-laden belt from a cafeteria supervisor, the former bodyguard added.
The blast — shortly after noon on April 12, 2007 — killed Awad and wounded 22 others. The incident highlighted how even the most heavily guarded base in Iraq — then under U.S. military control — was still vulnerable to attacks.
An insurgent group linked to al Qaeda claimed responsibility right after the attack, but police already had identified possible culprits. At the time, bodyguards had access to the Green Zone but were searched less closely by security officers. An Iraqi police major said then that pieces of a Glock pistol — the type of weapon government officials issue to lawmakers' security details — were found on the attacker's body.
In another chilling confession, Riyadh Ibrahim Jassim Hussein al Dayni said his uncle told him to organize retaliation attacks against rivals in Diyala, a province where Sunni-Shiite tensions were extremely volatile.
"Each one of our guys equals 10 of their people," the ex-bodyguard recalled his uncle's orders. "Go and kill 110 of them."
Then he was told to bury them alive.
(Daniel is a staff writer for The Miami Herald. McClatchy special correspondent Hussein Kadhim contributed to this report.)
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