By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 13, 2008 - A psychiatric hospital administrator in Iraq suspected of supplying mentally impaired women for al Qaeda terror missions was detained Feb. 10. The acting director of the Al Rashad psychiatric hospital of Baghdad is in coalition forces custody, and his office was searched to see what role he may have played in supplying al Qaeda with information about patients at the hospital or from other medical facilities in the Baghdad area, said Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, director of Multinational Force Iraq's Communication Division.
On Feb. 1, two women were part of separate suicide bombings in crowded Baghdad pet markets that killed nearly 100 people. Detaining the administrator and the subsequent search are part of an investigation into the bombing. Smith said last week that the two teenage women involved most likely unwittingly carried the explosives into the markets and that both were mentally handicapped.
Smith did not name the administrator and did not share any more details about the case, citing the ongoing investigations. He made the announcement in an update briefing on operations.
"Although al Qaeda has been disrupted by the collective efforts of Iraqi and coalition security forces and citizen volunteers, the terrorists still constitute a deadly threat to the people of Iraq by murdering innocent civilians and in the destruction of essential services and infrastructure," Smith said.
In other news in Iraq, the six-week-long countrywide offensive Operation Phantom Phoenix has yielded high payoffs for the coalition and Iraqi forces, the admiral said.
Since Operation Phantom Phoenix's start, forces have detained 1,825 terrorists and killed 241 others, destroyed 933 munitions stockpiles, and found and cleared 935 homemade bombs.
At the same time that coalition and Iraq forces are pressing the offensive, former detainees are being given an opportunity to return to Iraqi society. Before being allowed to go free, the detainees complete education, training and screening, and they swear oaths of loyalty to Iraq, Smith said.
Yesterday, 300 detainees were released in a ceremony in Baghdad. So far this year, 1,617 have been released. Last year, nearly 9,000 detainees were released through this program, he said. They are given the opportunity to participate in basic education courses, vocational training and family advocacy programs, Smith said.