Wanted Iraqi lawmaker returns, and quickly flees
The jet left Baghdad and had just crossed the ribbon of blue indicating the Euphrates River thousands of feet below when it arced back toward...
Los Angeles Times
BAGHDAD — The jet left Baghdad and had just crossed the ribbon of blue indicating the Euphrates River thousands of feet below when it arced back toward the Iraqi capital Wednesday.
Upon landing at Baghdad's airport, a security guard boarded the plane and left with a high-profile passenger, parliament member Mohammed al-Dayni. But al-Dayni's location remains a mystery as the clamor over his suspected crimes, everything from homicide to gold heists, escalates and threatens to rev up sectarian polarization in parliament.
The plainclothes security guard who escorted al-Dayni, a Sunni Arab politician, off the plane was part of his personal security contingent, as were the security officers who drove away with him soon before a nationwide manhunt began.
Late Wednesday, Iraqi security force spokesman Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said police were scouring the country and watching the borders for al-Dayni, who faced arrest after fellow lawmakers' vote earlier in the day to lift his parliamentary immunity. The order to turn his flight around came from the prime minister's office, shortly before the vote.
But the lifting of immunity apparently did not come early enough for police to be ready when the Iraqi Airways jet landed in Baghdad. The lawmaker had time to evade what he says is a politically charged indictment being steered by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government.
The case erupted Sunday when al-Moussawi said al-Dayni, a frequent critic of al-Maliki's government and opponent of the U.S. presence in Iraq, was a key suspect in the April 2007 bombing of the national parliament.
At a news conference, al-Moussawi showed footage of purported confessions by two bodyguards of al-Dayni detailing crimes allegedly ordered by the lawmaker: massacres of innocents in his home region, Diyala province; holdups of gold sellers in Baghdad; launchings of mortar rounds into the fortified Green Zone; and the parliament bombing, which killed Sunni lawmaker Mohammed Awad.
Al-Dayni responded with a news conference of his own, denying wrongdoing and saying his guards had been forced to confess. "This is an alarm bell" for all opposition lawmakers, al-Dayni said.
He did not answer his phone Wednesday night but earlier told The Associated Press he was going to visit relatives in Jordan when his flight was turned back.
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Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.
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