Iraqi leader implicates security in bombings
BAGHDAD - Dozens of suspected plotters in last week’s deadly suicide bombings that killed 127 people in Baghdad were linked to security forces, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said yesterday.
The revelation came as the Shi’ite prime minister, who is running for reelection in March, sought to assure Iraqis that he has security under control. But repeated security lapses attracted withering criticism from the Sunni vice president who hinted that the prime minister should resign.
Maliki told a news conference that an investigation of the Dec. 8 bombings - two of which targeted government buildings - so far has revealed that as many as 46 alleged plotters were linked to three different security agencies.
“The investigation is underway to reveal the circumstances and the names linked to this,’’ Maliki said.
The news conference came a day after explosions killed nine in Baghdad and Mosul - which, in turn, followed the horrific attack that left 127 dead and more than 500 wounded a week earlier. Two other massive bombings in August and October, also in Baghdad, killed 250. Nearly all the attacks in the capital targeted government buildings.
Maliki blamed all the bombings on Al Qaeda extremists and former Ba’ath Party loyalists whom he accused of seeking to scuttle Iraq’s March 7 national elections.
“They want to damage the political process,’’ he said of those behind the bombings. “The elections will definitely take place on time whatever the terrorists do.’’
He added that holding the vote would deal a body blow to insurgents seeking to thwart Iraq’s political process.
Meanwhile, in a televised speech distributed by his office, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said militias that have infiltrated Iraqi security forces were partially to blame for safety gaps.
Without mentioning Maliki, Hashemi said political leaders should not remain in power if they cannot protect citizens and government institutions.
“He should say, ‘I am sorry, and I quit,’ and let somebody else rule this country,’’ Hashemi said. “The people will respect him because the people will say that this person has tried and did his best, but the task was bigger than him.’’
Despite the bombings and other scattered daily violence, Maliki said American troops will stick to a December 31, 2011, deadline for leaving Iraq - a withdrawal he said remains “in a final form, with fixed timetables.’’
While Maliki vowed to stick to the withdrawal timetable, Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi acknowledged the United States would be assisting Iraqi security forces in some areas up until the pullout.