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Hospital Official Eyed In Iraq Bombings

The acting administrator of a psychiatric hospital in Baghdad has been detained on suspicion that he had a role in supplying patient information to al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a military spokesman, said U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested the man in his office Sunday and conducted a "thorough search" of the al-Rashad psychiatric hospital in Baghdad.

"Coalition forces detained a hospital administrator in connection with the possible exploitation of mentally impaired women by al Qaeda," Smith said.

"The administrator remains in coalition force detention and is being questioned to determine what role if any in supplying al Qaeda with information regarding patients at the al-Rashad psychiatric hospital or from other medical facilities in Baghdad," he added.

He said the man, whom he did not identify, was detained as part of the investigation into the Feb. 1 bombings of two crowded pet markets in Baghdad. He said he could not provide more details, citing the ongoing investigation.

U.S. and Iraqi officials blamed al Qaeda for the bombings and said the bombers were two mentally disabled women strapped with remote-control explosives and apparently did not know they were being used. Iraqi officials put the death toll at 99 in both attacks.

In other developments:

  • Iraq's parliament on Wednesday passed three key pieces of legislation that set a date for provincial elections, allot the US$48 billion for 2008 spending, and provide limited amnesty to detainees in Iraqi custody. The three measures were bundled together for one vote to satisfy the demands of minority Kurds who feared they might be double-crossed on their demand that the budget allot 17 percent to their semiautonomous regional government in the north.
  • American and Iranian officials planned to start another round of talks Friday, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said. The adviser, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to release information, said Wednesday that the discussions would be on the expert level. The Iraqis have been brokering occasional security talks between the two nations.
  • Attorney General Michael Mukasey has met in Iraq with the head of its judicial council during a quick trip to Baghdad to review U.S. efforts to help build the nation's legal system. The Justice Department released a statement early Wednesday in Washington in which it quoted Mukasey as noting that U.S. civilian volunteers are working with the Iraqi people. He said the aim was to build a legal system "very different from our own but founded upon the same bedrock principles: due process and the rule of law."
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