Iraq arrests 50 over coup plot: security official
12 hours ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq has arrested about 50 interior ministry officials for 
plotting a coup against the Shiite-led government, a senior Iraqi security 
official said on Thursday.

"Fifty interior ministry civil servants, including senior officials, were 
arrested over the past three days for trying to topple the government of Prime 
Minister Nuri al-Maliki," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Among those seized was General Ahmad Abul Rif, the ministry's security chief, 
he said.

"They were linked to the Al-Awda (The Return), a clandestine group that was 
working to bring the Baath Party back into power," he said.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party were ousted in the US-led 
invasion of March 2003.

The New York Times reported that a top interior ministry official said those 
arrested with Al-Awda links had paid bribes to be recruited and arresting 
officers had found substantial amounts of money in raids.

Maliki's critics have accused the prime minister of arresting political enemies 
to consolidate his power ahead of next month's provincial elections, the 
newspaper said.

Maliki himself was persecuted by Saddam's Sunni-led regime, but five years 
after the invasion hundreds of members of the executed dictator's former Baath 
party have returned to public life in Iraq.

Earlier this year Iraq's presidential council approved a bill allowing former 
Baath Party members to return to government jobs as part of the current 
Shiite-led administration.

The initiative was seen as a way to unite Iraqi factions, and a means to 
reverse what is widely seen as one of the huge blunders committed by US 

The initial US decision to disband the Iraqi army and sack all Baathists from 
the government to eradicate Saddam's influence led to the rise of a deadly 
anti-American insurgency in the aftermath of the invasion. 

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