Plot tightens Baghdad's vise

An Iraqi police officer uses a scanning device to inspect cars at a checkpoint in central Baghdad on Tuesday. Iraqi security forces locked down parts of Baghdad after foiling plans for what was called a major attack.

Associated Press

An Iraqi police officer uses a scanning device to inspect cars at a checkpoint in central Baghdad on Tuesday. Iraqi security forces locked down parts of Baghdad after foiling plans for what was called a major attack.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces shut down large portions of the capital Tuesday after arresting at least 25 men and seizing more than 400 pounds of explosives that insurgents allegedly had been planning to use in a major attack.

Iraqis woke up to partial curfews and vehicle bans in their neighborhoods, starting rumors that a military coup was under way and that a popular Sunni legislator had been killed.

But Baghdad law enforcement officials said the curfew was enacted, in part, as a show of force by security personnel. Col. Qassim al-Ameri of the Interior Ministry, which oversees Iraqi police, said officers found the explosives during morning raids. Security officials suspect the explosives may have been part of a plan to launch an attack ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

Although police routinely find explosives in Iraq, Tuesday's find was substantial. Iraqi security forces hailed their discovery of the cache and their ability to shut down parts of the capital, saying their efforts were a testament to the ability of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to maintain security.

"It proves that the Baghdad Operations Command can close all of Baghdad's exits when the situation requires it," Ameri said.

Ameri warned that the Interior Ministry planned similar curfews and vehicle bans in the coming days to pre-empt election-related violence.

By Tuesday afternoon, government spokesmen had defused rumors of a coup.

Since August, attacks have devastated the capital and killed more than 300 people.

Plot tightens Baghdad's vise 01/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 10:52pm]

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