BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two men arrested in Iraq over suicide bomb attacks on embassies and a foreign television office were shown on state TV Sunday confessing that they worked for al Qaeda.
The confessions, broadcast widely on several local channels, were aired at a time when Iraqi forces are under pressure to demonstrate their ability to fight insurgents as U.S. troops prepare for a complete withdrawal from Iraq by end-2011.
One man, Sinan Abid, 29, said he was personally involved in preparing suicide bomb attacks on the Iranian, Egyptian and German embassies in April in which at least 41 people died.
“My role was to link up the electrical circuit in the car after planting explosives, and then briefing the suicide bomber on how to blow up the car when he reached the target,” he said.
The other man, Abdulla Salih, 34, said he helped prepare explosives for a July suicide bomb attack on the Baghdad office of Arabiya TV channel in which at least four people were killed.
“I work for al Qaeda the Islamic State of Iraq, in the bomb-making division,” said Salih, looking straight into the camera. “We planted explosives in a minivan to target Arabiya TV and the process took us two days.”
The United States has officially ended combat operations and turned over primary responsibility for security to Iraqi forces. Washington still has about 50,000 troops in Iraq and plans to pull them out next year.
Overall security has improved since the dark days of sectarian violence in 2006-07, but insurgents are still active and stage almost daily attacks on police and government workers.
Iraq has had no new government for more than seven months since an inconclusive parliamentary election, and that too has raised fears that militants could exploit the power vacuum to stir up sectarian tensions.
As he presented the videotaped confessions, Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad’s security spokesman, said Iraqi forces had made a number of arrests in connection with the attacks.
“Terrorists used dual-use fertilizers to make car bombs in order to mislead security checkpoints and evade explosive detection devices,” he said.
“Our security forces managed to arrest a terrorist group involved in recent car bomb attacks, including the terrorist attack against Arabiya TV in Baghdad.”
The Arabiya blast took place a few weeks after Iraqi forces warned that a number of media including foreign outlets such as Arabiya could be targeted by the Sunni al Qaeda insurgency.
In a report last year, rights group Amnesty International criticized Iraq for using taped televised confessions, saying they undermined people’s right to a fair trial.
Writing by Maria Golovnina, editing by Tim Pearce