An Iraqi provincial governor on Monday said that 18 suspects arrested in connection with bomb attacks are linked to Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who has been sentenced to death in absentia.
On Sunday several bombings rocked Nasiriyah, capital of the southern province Dhi Qar, including one near the French honorary consulate that killed one person.
“We have arrested 18 people who prepared the bomb attacks in Nasiriyah. They belong to Hashemi’s Tajdid movement,” Dhi Qar governor Taleb al-Hassan told a joint news conference with French ambassador Denys Gauer.
A security official told AFP that “the terrorist acts in Baghdad and across Iraq were prepared by groups affiliated with Hashemi.”
“These individuals learned from (Hashemi’s) lawyers and bodyguards that his sentence would be delivered on Sunday. With these attacks they were trying to divert attention,” he added on condition on anonymity.
A wave of attacks across Iraq on Saturday and Sunday killed 88, according to security sources.
Hassan’s accusations come a day after the fugitive Iraqi vice president, who has been convicted of running a death squad and is currently on the run in Turkey, was sentenced to hang for the murder of a lawyer and a brigadier general.
Hashemi rejected the sentence at a news conference in Turkey.
“While reconfirming my absolute innocence and that of my guards, I totally reject and will never recognise the unfair, the unjust, the politically motivated verdict, which was expected from the outset of this funny trial,” Hashemi said.
The leading Sunni Muslim official branded the sentence “the final phase of the theatrical campaign” carried out by his political rival, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and “his politicised judiciary”.