BAGHDAD: Iraq’s premier has sacked a security chief in Baghdad, his office said in a statement, after a cleric jailed for fraud escaped and went on the run for two days.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al Sudani also ordered the closure of the detention facility in the capital’s Green Zone from which the senior cleric fled on Tuesday night.
Saad Qambash, once head of Iraq’s Sunni Waqf, the state body overseeing religious and civilian properties for Sunni Muslims, was jailed for four years earlier this month for fraud.
The interior ministry said on Thursday Qambash had been recaptured in Mosul in northern Iraq.
Because of his brief escape, Sudani had decided “to dismiss Lieutenant General Hamid Al Zuhairi, commander of the Special Division” who oversaw security in the Green Zone, the premier’s statement said.
The Green Zone is a heavily guarded area housing government offices, embassies and politicians’ homes.
The statement said the general was fired “due to insufficient action taken in response to the incident”, and “all those responsible” would be held accountable “and legally punished”.
Sudani also ordered the closure of the unit in the Karrada Maryam police station and the transfer of prisoners held there to other facilities.
On April 11, a court sentenced Qambash to a four-year term for using $36 million of Waqf funds to buy a hotel that anti-corruption investigators said was not “economically viable”.
On Wednesday, an interior ministry official told AFP that eight officers and 18 rank and file police had been arrested, suspected of helping Qambash to escape.
Corruption is endemic in oil-rich Iraq, where public funds are often spirited away from state coffers.
Sudani has repeatedly vowed to combat “the pandemic of corruption” since taking office last year.