August 25, 2009 / 1:08 PM / 11 years ago

Iraq asks Syria to hand over bombing suspects

BAGHDAD, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Iraq will ask Syria to hand over two people it says masterminded bomb attacks in Baghdad last week which killed almost 100 people, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government has blamed supporters of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party for the attacks and has captured some of those it deems responsible.

In a tape aired on television on Sunday, one of those captured said he was acting under orders from a man in Syria called Sattam Farhan, a member of a wing of the Baath party headed by Mohammad Younis al-Ahmed.

"The cabinet requests they (Syria) hand over Mohammad Younis al-Ahmed and Sattam Farhan for their direct role in Wednesday’s terrorist act," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

Diplomats in Damascus say Syria, which is governed by a rival branch of the Sunni Arab Baath party, expelled Younis earlier this year.

Ties between Damascus and Baghdad have been strained since around the time Saddam came to power. Since 2003, the U.S.-backed Iraqi government has accused Syria, estranged from Washington, of permitting insurgents to stream into Iraq.

Iraqi officials frequently blame neighbouring countries for fomenting violence in Iraq. Despite a sharp drop in violence since the worst of the killing in 2006-07, the Iraqi government is facing sharp criticism over continuing attacks.

Many Iraqis blame the recent violence on strife between political, ethnic and sectarian groups jostling for power ahead of anticipated parliamentary elections in January.

Led by Sunni Arab Saddam from 1979-2003, the Baath party brutally oppressed Iraq’s Shi’ites and Kurds.

Dabbagh said the foreign ministry would ask Syria to hand over all those wanted for crimes in Iraq and "to banish the terrorist organisations that use Syria as a base from which to carry out terrorist acts against the Iraqi nation".

He also said the cabinet had summoned Iraq’s ambassador to Syria back to Baghdad to discuss the issue.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited Syria this month, partly to discuss security issues. He was preceded by a U.S. security team which discussed Syrian moves to curb the entry of insurgents from Syria.

Dabbagh gave no deadline and did not say what measures Iraq would take if the suspects were not handed over.

He also said the cabinet had asked the Foreign Ministry to petition the United Nations Security Council to create a criminal court to try "war criminals who planned and executed war crimes and crimes against humanity" in Iraq. (Reporting by Mohammed Abbas: Editing by Missy Ryan and Robert Woodward)

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