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Iraq governors had warning about attack

By PAMELA HESS, UPI Pentagon Correspondent

BAGHDAD, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- The Iraqi governing council had an intelligence report that a major attack was being planned in Baghdad prior to Tuesday's bombing, said Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and head of the Iraqi National Congress.

Chalabi said extremists met Aug. 14 to plan a major attack on a "soft target" in Baghdad, most likely an Iraqi political party or the United Nations. The intelligence report "specifically said a truck (bomb) would be detonated either through a suicide driver or an electronic detonation," Chalabi said during a news conference in Baghdad Wednesday.

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He said the intelligence was gathered by Iraqis rather than by U.S. intelligence but that the information was shared with the coalition. The report specifically said the target would not be the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority or military forces but targets that are less well protected.

His comments came a day after an apparent suicide bomber hit U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel in northeast Baghdad, killing 20, including the head of the U.N. mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and wounding around 100.

Chalabi said intelligence is regularly shared between Iraqis and U.S. forces but acknowledged that "the process needs to be improved."

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Chalabi also placed responsibility for the increase in violence on coalition forces, which he said were failing to crack down on known fedayeen members, Saddam's security forces, and extremists from Ansar al-Islam who have taken up residence in Baghdad.

"We believe the major problem is in not dealing firmly and strongly with those who have expertise and have funding," he said.

He said known fighters must be detained if order is to be restored.

"... they are known. The Iraqi people know where they are. We get a constant stream of information about the whereabouts of intelligence officers and extremists," Chalabi said. "Those people should be arrested, taken out of circulation."

He did not say why the coalition had not arrested those he alleged are involved or whether he shared that information specifically.

Chalabi highlighted Ansar al-Islam as a threat. He said the organization, once based in northern Iraq near the border with Iran, "is no longer a Kurdish organization.

"They are now an organization in Baghdad composed of Iraqis from all over and non-Iraqis that come here to carry out (acts of) terror."

He said Tuesday's attack bore the marks of a well-planned operation.

"This was not an act by a simple group but a sophisticated highly funded group," he said. "These are only masters of terrorists who looted the central bank and are using the money to undertake terrorist activities."

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Chalabi's INC has tried to highlight the lack of coordination between Americans and Iraqis. The party has a vast network of offices in every neighborhood in Baghdad.

At a bright shawarma restaurant in Karrada, a vibrant middle-class neighborhood where an American soldier was killed by a bomb Monday, Moji Hassan expressed his frustration with the coalition forces.

"All the trouble we have is because we can't coordinate with the coalition," he said.

Hassan is a lawyer of about 60 who fled Iraqi in 1979 but returned to the Kurdish north in 1993. He is in charge of security operations for the INC in Karrada and five neighboring districts and says he has information on Palestinian and Arab terrorists operating in the area but has been unable to talk to an American intelligence official to share the data.

"I've tried so many times to meet the guy and to organize and work for security and I couldn't meet him," he said, naming a U.S. intelligence officer that works at the military office in Karrada. "Several times I asked for him and they told me he's not here."

He says he went first to the headquarters of the CPA, and then to the coalition military headquarters, and then to the Karrada office. Finally he went to a city council meeting attended by U.S. military personnel and made a speech in English so they would be sure to understand.

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"I said I need to help you and help me secure our street. They said they would send someone but it has been almost a week and no one has come," he said. "We need support from the coalition force. We have so many troublemakers in this area."

The INC is mostly peopled with exiled Iraqis who have returned home -- some, including Chalabi, after 40 years of living abroad.

The group was considered, at least by large parts of the U.S. government, as the heir apparent to the government of Iraq.

The CPA Web site advertises a tip line and offers rewards to those who provide information on people who attack the coalition.

"I don't know how to deal with the Internet," Hassan said.

The U.S. military has a number of civil-military operations centers around the city, but even coalition officers acknowledge they don't know where all of them are. A huge map of Baghdad in a back corner of the conference center where news briefings are held has small red stickers at each CMOC location.

Iraqis say the CMOCs are hard to navigate and difficult to enter because of the tight security that surrounds them, which is bound to get even tighter after Tuesday's attack.

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The main CMOC, just down the street from the CPA headquarters, is a massive and confusing complex of poorly marked former government buildings. An attempt to find the military civil affairs office led first to the base dentist, then to a makeshift shopping mall and finally to the right office, with directions asked and answered in English only.

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