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Archive for Saturday, August 22, 2009

Leaders seek review of security forces

August 22, 2009

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— Senior Iraqi officials and lawmakers recommended a review of security leadership, better coordination on intelligence and firmer treatment of detainees Friday as anger mounted over truck bombings against key government institutions that killed nearly 100 people.

Lawmakers also called for an emergency session of parliament next week to address the security concerns, the deputy parliament speaker said.

Facing widespread criticism, the Iraqi military announced on state television that it had arrested members of the insurgent cell responsible for Wednesday’s attacks but gave no details about the suspects. Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the chief military spokesman in Baghdad, said only that both attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

A bombing that killed at least two people and wounded 20 Friday at a vegetable market in southern Baghdad exposed more lapses in security after the truck used in the attack passed through an Iraqi police checkpoint without being searched, police said.

Violence also continued near the volatile northern city of Mosul, where scores have been killed in bombings this month. A car bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol in a Sunni village near the Syrian border, killing four soldiers, according to police.

The police officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

The increase in violence has shaken public confidence in Iraq’s security forces and caused some to wonder if the security transition from U.S. to Iraqi hands is happening too rapidly.

“We still need American support for a period of time until our abilities are complete in intelligence and technical issues,” Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said.

U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities on June 30, and the recent bombings have raised fears about the readiness of Iraqi forces to provide security as the U.S. winds down combat operations.

Under an Iraqi-U.S. security pact that took effect Jan. 1, American forces will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. President Barack Obama has ordered all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving up to 50,000 U.S. troops in training and advising roles. It also provides for the Americans to assist with intelligence, air power and other support.

The recommendation for a security review came out of a meeting of Iraq’s political blocs and the ministers of defense, interior and national security as authorities moved swiftly to deal with the fallout from Wednesday’s bombings.

The blasts primarily targeted government buildings, including the foreign and finance ministries, killing at least 101 people and wounding more than 500.

The attacks revealed “breaches and soft areas in our security system,” deputy speaker Khalid al-Attiyah said. “This matter requires a comprehensive review of the system and finding the shortcomings in order to fix them.”

He said recommendations included the creation of a joint committee of officials from the interior, defense and national security ministries to determine how to better investigate and prosecute insurgents.

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