Plot fear prompts curfew in Baghdad

October 01, 2006|By Doug Smith and Saif Rasheed | Doug Smith and Saif Rasheed,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The government clamped a 24-hour curfew on the capital yesterday, shortly after U.S. forces arrested the bodyguard of a prominent Sunni leader on suspicion of plotting a suicide attack inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.

A statement from the U.S. Army said the man was part of an al-Qaida cell "in the final stages of launching a series of ... attacks" that would have used several vehicles and possibly suicide vests.

It said a seven-member cell believed to be linked to vehicle bombings in southern Baghdad was planning the attacks on the area that houses the Iraqi government and U.S. and other embassies under heavy military protection. The Army did not say whether it detained others.

The guard was arrested at the home of Adnan Dulaimi, one of the main figures in the minority Sunni bloc of parliament. Dulaimi was not under suspicion, the Army said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials denied any connection between the curfew announcement late Friday and the politically sensitive arrest.

An Army spokesman said the U.S. had recommended the curfew in hopes of quelling violence that has spiked during the monthlong observance of Ramadan.

"We have found these curfews are effective in bringing down the level of violence," the spokesman said. "It just seemed prudent at this time."

Iraqi police officials gave a different explanation, saying that the curfew was a reaction to a plot that sounded similar to the one described by U.S. officials but was instead aimed at Baghdad residents.

"We received precise intelligence about the intentions of moving car bombs and terrorists with suicide belts to Baghdad," said Brig. Gen. Qassim Mousawi, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

The U.S. Army and Dulaimi sought to minimize political fallout from the arrest of the bodyguard, who had recently joined his personal security detail.

In television interviews, Dulaimi strongly proclaimed the innocence of the guard, accusing unnamed enemies of trying to damage his reputation and derail national reconciliation.

He said the guard, Khudhir Farhan Marjan, had no connection to terrorists and wouldn't have been hired if he had.

Doug Smith and Saif Rasheed write for the Los Angeles Times

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