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Iraqi forces have arrested up to 25 officials in the Interior Ministry for allegedly working to bring back Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and plotting a coup, according to several reports Thursday.

Those arrested include at least four Iraqi generals, including the ministry’s director of internal affairs, according to the reports.

Members of a counterterrorism force that reports directly to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were said to have made the arrests, which occurred over the past several days.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry oversees Iraqi police units and other security forces.

The New York Times, citing ministry officials, reported that "some of those arrested were in the early stages of planning a coup."

The U.S. military in Iraq referred all questions on the matter to the Iraqi government. Officials at the Interior Ministry could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

According to The Associated Press, an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that "more than 20" employees had been arrested, but dismissed speculation of a coup. The spokesman also said many of those arrested were "low level" employees.

Those arrested were allegedly working with al-Awda ("The Return" in Arabic), which included the remnants of the Baath Party. The party was banned after Saddam’s ouster by the U.S. invasion in 2003.

The party was banned as one of the first acts by the Coalition Provisional Authority. A "de-Baathification" policy then purged many senior members of government ministries, universities and state-run companies.

Since then, Iraqi officials have issued orders allowing lower-ranking former party members to return to their jobs.


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