AFP: A US military commander on Saturday accused Iranian-linked “special groups” of bombing a Baghdad pet market in which 13 people were killed and said the bombers had tried to pin the blame on Al-Qaeda. BAGHDAD (AFP) A US military commander on Saturday accused Iranian-linked “special groups” of bombing a Baghdad pet market in which 13 people were killed and said the bombers had tried to pin the blame on Al-Qaeda.
Two bombs hidden in a cardboard carton used to transport birds exploded simultaneously at Baghdad’s Al-Ghazl market on Friday while it was crowded with people out enjoying the weekly Muslim holiday, Iraqi officials said.
US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a news conference that the explosives had been packed with ball-bearings to make maximum impact.
“In raids overnight, Iraqi and coalition forces were able to identify and detain four members of a militia extremist group we assess as responsible for this horrific act of indiscriminate violence,” Smith said.
“Based on subsequent confessions, forensics and other intelligence, the bombing was the work of an Iranian-backed special groups cell operating here in Baghdad.”
The term “special groups” is used by the US military to describe Shiite militias trained by Iranian Quds Force operatives in the use of sophisticated weaponry against US forces.
However, Smith said there was “no evidence that the Iranian government ordered the attack.”
A separate military statement to AFP said the components of the bomb used in the pet market attack were linked to the type used by such special groups.
“We also have scientific evidence that directly implicates the four detainees in the murder of the innocent Iraqi citizens at the market yesterday,” the statement said.
Smith said the militants tried to make the bomb attack look like the work of Al-Qaeda.
“The group’s purpose was to make it appear Al-Qaeda was responsible for this attack,” he told reporters.
“Despite killing innocent Shiites and Sunnis the special group’s aim was to demonstrate to Baghdadis the need for militia groups to continue providing for their security.”
Smith’s accusations contrast with a recent softening of the rhetoric by US military commanders against Tehran, with some even crediting Washington’s arch- foe with helping curb violence in Iraq.
On Wednesday, US Lieutenant General James Dubik said Tehran had contributed to stopping the flow of arms across the border into its war-scarred neighbour.
Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Tehran had assured Baghdad it would help stop the inflow of Iranian weapons into Iraq.
In the past the US military used every occasion possible to point the finger at Iran, accusing the Quds Force, the covert unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, of helping smuggle lethal explosives across the border for use by special groups.
Tehran has consistently denied it is fomenting violence in Iraq.
The US military says most of the special groups members are militants who have broken away from radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia and who are ignoring his call to lay down their arms.
Smith repeated the claim on Saturday in relation to the pet market bombing.
“This bombing demonstrates there remain individuals who continue to ignore Moqtada al-Sadr’s pledge of a ceasefire,” Smith said.
“Iraq and coalition forces will continue to capture or kill those who choose to dishonour Moqtada al-Sadr by committing these acts of indiscriminate violence against the Iraqis.”
On August 29, Sadr ordered his militia to freeze its activities after it was accused of a fierce firefight with Iraqi police in the shrine city of Karbala which killed 52 people and wounded hundreds more.