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Middle east

Iraqi forces thwart suicide bomb attack near French embassy

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-11-29

Iraqi forces have halted an attempted suicide bomb attack near the French embassy in Baghdad, an Iraqi general said Monday. If it has been successful, it would have been the second attack this year targeting a foreign embassy.

AFP - Iraqi forces have thwarted an attempt by a suicide bomber to blow up a vehicle by the French embassy in Baghdad, an Iraqi general told AFP on Monday.

The attack, if carried out, would have been the second by insurgent groups against foreign embassies this year, after three suicide bombers detonated explosives-packed cars nearly simultaneously against regional and European missions, killing 30 people on April 4.

"We aborted a car bomb attempt led by a suicide bomber against the French embassy," Brigadier General Ahmed Abu Rheef, the director of internal affairs and security at the interior ministry, said.

Abu Rheef did not give details of when or how the attack was stopped, but said that the group attempting to bomb the embassy was the same as the one that took dozens of worshippers hostage at a Baghdad cathedral.

The October 31 church siege ended in the deaths of 44 worshippers, two priests and five security force members in an attack which sparked an international outcry.

Around 60 other people were wounded in the bloodbath, and the five militants who carried it out were also killed.

Al-Qaeda said it launched the church attack to force the release of converts to Islam it said were being detained by the Coptic Church in Egypt. Days later it declared Christians everywhere "legitimate targets."

The French embassy declined to comment on the news of the aborted bomb plot when contacted by AFP.

The interior ministry had informed officials from several countries of the foiled attack at a briefing earlier on Monday, according to a European diplomat with knowledge of the meeting.

The ministry told them that the arrests this month of a dozen people suspected of helping to carry out the church attack directly led to the thwarting of the embassy plot.

"During the meeting, someone raised the fact that the arrests which were made prevented a bomb attack from happening at the French embassy," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Among those apprehended following the church seige were Huthaifa al-Batawi, the Baghdad chief of the Islamic State of Iraq, the Al-Qaeda front group which carried out the attack, while senior ISI leader Ammar al-Najadi was killed, an interior ministry official said on Saturday.

Batawi replaced Munaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi, who was arrested by Iraqi security forces on March 11.

Iraqi security forces have said Rawi's arrest provided crucial intelligence that helped lead to the killings in April of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the political leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Ayub al-Masri, the insurgent group's self-styled "minister of war."

The 12 militants were captured in raids carried out in the upscale west Baghdad neighbourhood of Mansur and on Palestine Street in the east of the city, the official said.

He added that authorities seized six tonnes of explosives and toxic gas in the properties raided, and said the arrests had helped prevent several attacks, including ones targeting Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone which is home to several embassies and government buildings.

The April attacks, claimed by Al-Qaeda, involved two car bombs against the Egyptian and Iranian missions, while a third struck an intersection near the German, Spanish and Syrian embassies.

In all, 30 people were killed and 224 wounded.

Date created : 2010-11-29

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