Press TV.com – November 1, 2010
An Iraqi official has revealed that the gunmen involved in the country’s recent church drama could have been members of foreign security companies.
Qassem Atta, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command, said on Monday that the assailants that stormed Baghdad’s Sayidat al-Nejat Catholic Church were wearing uniforms used by foreign security companies.
On Sunday, a group of armed men took dozens of worshippers hostage in the church. The incident lasted nearly four hours until the police intervened. The Iraqi interior ministry later said 52 people were killed and more than 60 were injured in the incident.
“The gunmen attacked the church carrying hand grenades,” Atta told Aswat al-Iraq news agency. He also said that Iraqi security forces arrested five of the gunmen, noting that one of the detained was of an Arab nationality.
“The (police) forces defused four bombs, eight hand grenades and two explosive belts,” he added.
Iraqi authorities have launched an investigation into the incident and interrogations are underway with the arrested assailants, according to the Iraqi official who added that five of the gunmen committed suicide during the terrorist attack.
Meanwhile on Monday, 18 members of foreign security companies were arrested by Iraqi police in Basra’s northwestern region of al-Ramiela for violating the law.
Despite the withdrawal of US combat forces earlier this year, Iraq continues to host some 50,000 American troops that remain in the country for “advising and training” purposes – not taking into account thousands of armed mercenaries employed by foreign private security firms that operate in the country to provide protection for mostly foreign officials and contractors.