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U.S. probes hospital link to bombings

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraq hospital administrator held on suspicion he supplied info to militants
  • It concerns mentally challenged women who carried out two bombings
  • Feb. 1 bombings went off within 30 minutes of each other, killing 100 people
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A hospital administrator has been detained on suspicion he helped to supply patient information to militants about the mentally challenged women thought to have unknowingly carried out two bombings, the U.S. military says.

The women were thought to have been used by al Qaeda in Iraq to detonate an explosive-filled backpack and a suicide vest in two pet markets in Baghdad. The February 1 bombings went off within 30 minutes of each other, killing nearly 100 people.

Iraqi and U.S. military officials believe the women were unaware they were being used for the attacks, and the explosives were detonated by remote control.

The man arrested is the acting administrator of the Rashad Psychiatric Hospital, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith told reporters on Wednesday. The previous director of the hospital had been gunned down in December.

"Coalition forces detained a hospital administrator in connection with the possible exploitation of mentally impaired women by al Qaeda," Smith said. Video Watch how the use of the women represents a new tactic »

"The administrator remains in coalition force detention and is being questioned to what role, if any he may of played in supplying al Qaeda with information regarding patients" at that hospital and other facilities in Baghdad, Smith said.

He said the man, whom he did not identify, was arrested in an investigation into the bombings. He said he could not provide more details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Military officials believe the bombers were mentally handicapped teenage women.

Gen. Abboud Qanbar, the head of the Baghdad security plan, said the women most likely had Down's syndrome. That was confirmed by a CNN producer who was permitted to view photographs of the deceased women and said they appeared to have Down's syndrome features.

"From what I see it appears that the suicide bombers were not willing martyrs," Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of Multi-National Division-Baghdad said the day after the attack.

"They were used by al Qaeda for these horrific attacks."

Hammond was referring to the Iraqi militant group called al Qaeda in Iraq. He said the women likely were used because they did not understand the implications of what was happening and they were less likely to be searched.


Gen. Qasim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad's security plan, said the women were strapped with dynamite and ball bearings, citing members of the bomb squad. The explosives were detonated via cell phone, he said.

An Atta aide said that people referred to the bomber at central Baghdad's al-Ghazl market as the "crazy woman" and that the bomber at a second market had an unspecified birth disability. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Carol Jordan contributed to this report.

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