U.S. forces arrest senior Iraqi official

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. forces arrested the deputy head of a committee that purged Iraq’s government of members of Saddam Hussein’s party, an ally said, but the U.S. military said he was a wanted militia leader behind a deadly Baghdad bombing.

U.S. troops detained Ali al-Lami, general manager of a committee established in 2003 and 2004 by then U.S. governor Paul Bremer to remove members of Saddam’s Baath party from the government, on Wednesday, the committee’s head said on Thursday.

A U.S. military statement said its troops seized a man at the airport suspected of planning a bomb attack in eastern Baghdad’s Sadr City slum in June that killed 10 people, including two U.S soldiers and two U.S. civilian contractors.

“He was captured at the airport. He had just returned from Lebanon with his family,” Ahmed al-Chelabi, director of the deBaathification Committee, said in a statement.

“We strongly condemn this operation against one of the highest officials of the … committee, who had done good work.”

The U.S. military said the man they picked up at the airport, whom they could not name, was a senior “special groups criminal”, jargon for Shi’ite militia cells it says are backed by Iran. Iran denies backing Iraqi militants.

“Coalition forces captured a man suspected of working within the highest echelons of the special groups criminals,” spokesman for the U.S. military, Major John Hall, said.

“Intelligence sources have implicated the captured man with multiple criminal acts including bombings and attacks against Iraqi targets — specifically the June 24 bombing at the Sadr City District Advisory Council.”

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