BASRA, Iraq – Police arrested five Iraqis on Friday believed linked to Al Qaeda (search) and suspected in this week's homicide bombings in Basra (search), and the men led police to a stash of 20 tons of explosives, a police intelligence chief said.
The arrests came two days after attackers set off car bombs outside police stations and a police academy in this Shiite-majority southern city, killing 74 people, including at least 16 children whose school buses were incinerated by the blast as they passed one of the stations.
Five car bombs were used in the attack, and police seized two more explosive-laden vehicles Wednesday before they could be detonated.
Basra's police intelligence chief Col. Khalaf al-Badran said police were now looking for at least one more car bomb somewhere in the city.
A group of Iraqis captured with the car bombs seized after the attacks led police to the cell, al-Badran said.
In Friday's raids, police captured two men in a truck carrying 3.5 tons of TNT in Basra's Faihaa neighborhood, then arrested the three others in a house where they found a ton of explosives, along with mortar shells and rockets, al-Badran said.
The men led police to another house where police found 20 tons of explosives, TNT, mortar shells, rockets and artillery shells, al-Badran said.
The five confessed to working with a Syrian connected to Al Qaeda who travels between Iraq and neighboring Kuwait, he said. They said they had prepared a total eight car bombs for use in Wednesday's attacks.
The vehicles used in the attacks were stuffed with explosives and rockets, police said.
Wednesday's blasts were the bloodiest attack in Basra, which has largely been spared the insurgent violence seen elsewhere in the country. Basra's Gov. Wael Abdel-Latif accused Al Qaeda in the attack, though British officials responsible for security in the area said the terror network's role was not certain.