BAGHDAD -The jet left Baghdad and had just crossed the Euphrates River when it arced back toward the Iraqi capital yesterday. Upon landing at Baghdad's airport, a security guard boarded the plane and left with parliament member Mohammed al-Dayni.
But al-Dayni's whereabouts are a mystery as the clamor over his alleged crimes, from murder to gold robberies, threatens to increase sectarian polarization in parliament.
The guard who escorted al-Dayni, a Sunni Arab, off the plane was part of his security detail, as were the officers who drove away with him shortly before a nationwide manhunt began. Al-Dayni apparently was able to evade what he says is a politically charged indictment being steered by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government.
Late yesterday, Iraqi security force spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said police were scouring the country. Lawmakers voted earlier in the day to lift al-Dayni's parliamentary immunity. The order to turn his flight around came from the prime minister's office shortly before the vote.
The case erupted Sunday when al-Moussawi said that al-Dayni, a critic of al-Maliki's government and opponent of the U.S. presence in Iraq, was a key suspect in the April 2007 bombing of the national parliament.
At a news conference, al-Moussawi showed footage of purported confessions by two al-Dayni bodyguards detailing crimes allegedly ordered by the lawmaker: massacres of innocents in his home region, Diyala province; robberies of gold sellers in Baghdad; launchings of mortar rounds into the Green Zone; and the parliament bombing, which killed Sunni lawmaker Mohammed Awad.
Al-Dayni has denied any wrongdoing and alleged that his guards were forced to confess.