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Hospital Official in Iraq Accused of Helping Terrorists


An official at a psychiatric hospital in the Iraqi capital has been detained on suspicion of supplying information about mentally ill patients to al-Qaida in Iraq. VOA's Deborah Block has further details.

A U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, says the acting administrator of the al-Rasheed psychiatric hospital in Baghdad was arrested Sunday by U.S. and Iraqi forces. He says the troops also did a thorough search of the hospital.

Smith did not identify the administrator, but the Iraq Health Ministry named him as Sahi Abub al-Maliki.

"Iraqi and coalition forces detained a hospital administrator in connection with the possible exploitation of mentally impaired women by al-Qaida. On February 1st, two women were used to deliver a backpack filled with explosives and a suicide vest into the crowded pet markets in Baghdad," he said.

At the two pet markets, the explosives were detonated by remote control, indicating the women may not have been willing attackers. Almost 100 people were killed in the attacks.

Smith says the hospital official is being held by coalition forces. He says the man is being questioned to determine whether he provided information about patients at al-Rasheed hospital or any other medical facility in Baghdad.

The U.S. military has expressed concern that al-Qaida in Iraq is increasingly turning to women and children as suicide bombers to get around stepped up security measures.

Also in Iraq, lawmakers passed the 2008 budget, after weeks of delays and threats to dissolve the parliament over the deadlock. Iraq's parliament approved a $48 billion budget and two key bills. One set a date for provincial elections, and the other is an amnesty law that could free thousands of prisoners.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey met in Iraq with senior U.S. and Iraqi officials on his first trip to the country since taking office last November. He discussed cooperative efforts to promote the rule of law in Iraq.

Mukasey says the aim is to build a legal system different from that in the United States, but founded upon the same principles of due process and rule of law.

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