BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Al Qaeda in Iraq is recruiting female patients at Baghdad’s two psychiatric hospitals for suicide missions — with the help of hospital staff — according to the U.S. military.
The U.S. military believes al Qaeda in Iraq has operatives within the hospitals’ staffs who are passing on patients’ files and contact information to the militant group, a senior U.S. military official said, requesting anonymity.
The apparent recruiting effort came to light this month when Iraqi officials said that two female bombers in deadly pet market attacks in Baghdad that left nearly 100 dead were mentally challenged.
One of the female bombers had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression at Baghdad’s Ibn Rushd psychiatric hospital, where she received electric shock treatments, the hospital’s director said in an exclusive interview.
As part of the investigation into the February 1 attack, U.S. and Iraqi forces detained the acting director of Baghdad’s main psychiatric facility, Rashad Hospital, on Sunday.
He faces questions about whether he provided patient files and contact information to al Qaeda in Iraq, a U.S. military spokesman, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, said Wednesday.
The U.S. military is looking into whether there is a direct link between the two hospitals, which are treating an overabundance of Iraqis suffering from psychiatric disorders brought on by the war.
A U.S. military official said information from a source led them to Rashad Hospital’s acting director. The U.S. military also said it believes that al Qaeda in Iraq is trying to use other women released from Rashad Hospital to carry out future suicide bombings.
The detained hospital chief took over the position after Rashad’s director was fatally gunned down in December reportedly for refusing to cooperate with al Qaeda in Iraq.