Last updated: 19 January, 2012

Iraq approves death penalty for 2009 Baghdad bombers

Iraq’s presidency approved the death penalty on Thursday for 11 men, including Al-Qaeda militants, convicted two years ago of being behind devastating attacks against two ministries in 2009.

The August 19, 2009 attacks — just minutes apart outside the ministries of finance and foreign affairs in Baghdad — were an embarrassing security breach and caused massive destruction, leaving 106 people dead and around 600 wounded.

“The presidency approved the decision to carry out the death penalty for the 11 responsible for the attacks,” an official in the Iraqi presidency office told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official said the final approval to execute the men took two years because of a lengthy appeals process.

With President Jalal Talabani receiving medical treatment in Germany and Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi holed up in the autonomous Kurdish region after being charged with running a death squad, the execution was likely approved by Shiite Vice President Khudayr al-Khuzaie.

Khuzaie is the leader of a wing of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party.

Those convicted included Salim Abed Jassim, who confessed that he received funding for the attacks from a senior army officer during the rule of Saddam Hussein who had apparently fled to Syria.

Also sentenced to death were Ishaq Mohammed Abbas, an Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, and his brother Mustapha.

Both men had once been detained but were later released from Camp Bucca, a now closed US-run prison in the southern city of Basra.

The August 19 truck attacks on what was dubbed “Black Wednesday” marked Iraq’s worst day of violence in 18 months and prompted public outrage.

The government, which blamed the bombings on Al-Qaeda and Saddam loyalists from the executed dictator’s outlawed Baath party, admitted at the time that negligence at checkpoints allowed the attackers to enter the capital.

Dozens of members of the security forces were later arrested for alleged dereliction of duty.

Despite the furore over the August 19 atrocities, bombers managed to commit similar carnage in October and December 2009, when they again struck government buildings in attacks that killed at least 280 people and wounded 1,000 more.