BAGHDAD — The suicide truck bomber who targeted Iraq's Foreign Ministry in one of the most deadly attacks this year had recently been freed from U.S. custody, an Iraqi investigator said Sunday, raising fresh concerns that former detainees will return to violence.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken the Aug. 19 bombings that devastated the foreign and finance ministries and killed about 100 people personally as they dealt a major blow to confidence in his administration and security forces just two months after most U.S. forces pulled back from urban areas.
A senior Iraqi investigator said the man who carried out the attack against the Foreign Ministry was a former detainee at the U.S. detention camp known as Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.
The bomber left his identification card at a checkpoint in order to be allowed to approach the Foreign Ministry and police were able to track down his background from the information, said the investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information.
Americans have been releasing detainees or transferring them to Iraqi custody to comply with a security pact that took effect on Jan. 1, but some Iraqis complain that those freed from custody have returned to violence.
The number of detainees in U.S. custody dropped to 8,947 from a high of 27,000 in 2007, the lowest it has been in more than four years, the U.S. military said Sunday.
The U.S. military says its policy is to review every detainee's file with the Iraqi government to determine whether a warrant should be issued or the inmate should be freed.
The military said 1,179 detainees facing a warrant or detention order have been transferred to the Iraqi government while 5,236 have been released.
In the confession aired Sunday, the man introduced himself as a 29-year-old Saudi Arabian named Mohammed Bin Hassan Bin Abdullah al-Shimmari and said he had been encouraged by preachers in his native, mainly Sunni, country to go fight U.S. forces and Shiites in Iraq.
"I was sent to a training camp in Latakia in northern Syria," he said in a statement that was aired on Iraqi state television.
After training, al-Shimmari said he entered Iraq through Anbar province. He said he and other foreign fighters attacked Iraqi police and kidnapped and killed Shiites, with funding from Sunni clerics in Saudi Arabia.
Allegations of foreign fighters entering Iraq from neighboring countries are not new, but the Iraqi government has stepped up its rhetoric against Syria following the Aug. 19 coordinated suicide truck bombings in the heart of Baghdad.
In a bid to ease tensions, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu planned to meet leaders in Iraq and Syria today, according to an aide who declined to be identified.