Iraqis make arrest in 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 17, 2010

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials disclosed Saturday the arrest of a commercial airline pilot they say orchestrated the 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

Authorities said they captured Ali Hussein Azzawi, reportedly a senior member of al-Qaeda in Iraq, at his home in eastern Baghdad on June 26. On Saturday, they released a videotaped confession by Azzawi in which he acknowledges having held a top post in the Sunni insurgent group.

"An interrogation has showed that many of the terrorist groups were working under his supervision," said Maj. Gen. Qasim Atta, a spokesman for the Baghdad security command center.

Atta did not say why officials waited almost seven months to announce the arrest of the 54-year-old former Iraqi Airways pilot.

Security has emerged as the top issue in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in March. A string of deadly bombings targeting key government buildings in recent months has embarrassed the country's elected officials.

The Aug. 19, 2003, bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad killed 22 people, including the organization's top envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

It was among the first signs that the U.S.-led invasion months earlier had unleashed a violent insurgency.

Special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim contributed to this report.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company