New bombings in Iraq kill 30 as Maliki moves to take control

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 20, 2009 

WORLD NEWS USIRAQ 3 MO

A truck laden with explosives blew up next to Iraq's Foreign Ministry, killing at least 47, Wednesday, August 19, 2009. (Adam Ashton/Modesto Bee/MCT)

ADAM ASHTON — MCT

BAGHDAD — A string of bombings Thursday south of Baghdad killed at least 30 people and wounded nearly 200, stoking fears that more violence would follow this week's deadly strikes in the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi officials sought to get Baghdad under control Thursday, heightening security and arresting 11 police and military officers as part of an investigation into how insurgents managed to park truck bombs in front of two government ministries Wednesday in attacks that killed 95 people and wounded as many as 1,203.

The detained officials include two army regiment commanders, the commander of a police emergency company and five chiefs of neighborhood police units. There was no indication whether they were considered suspects in the bombings or were apprehended to be held accountable for possible lapses on their watch.

Thursday's bombings were spread out over seven hours in Babil province, once called the Triangle of Death because of its notoriety as a site of unrest against American forces.

Details were sparse, but Babil police said they'd imposed a curfew after the last attack, two homemade bombs that exploded about 9 p.m. in an open-air market in the town of Musayeb, killing 13 people and wounding 130.

Earlier in the afternoon, a booby-trapped minibus exploded at a checkpoint in the city of Mahaweel, killing eight people and wounding 24, police said. A second attack in that city was aimed at an outdoor market. It killed nine and wounded 42, according to police.

A Babil hospital official said the casualties totaled 34 killed and 397 wounded. The hospital official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to talk to journalists, couldn't break down the numbers of dead and wounded for each incident.

Smaller attacks in the Babil capital of Hillah and against an American military convoy in the southern city of Basra didn't cause injuries, Iraqi and American authorities said.

Iraqi officials are pushing to revise police and military procedures, arguing that they aren't doing enough to block extremists who want to intimidate Iraqis and shatter their faith in the elected government less than two months after American forces withdrew from urban areas.

Parliament Speaker Ayad al Samarrai is trying to convene a special session of a security council that consists of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and chiefs of political blocs, but it wasn't clear Thursday whether they'd heed his call.

"Today it is the duty of the government represented by the presidency, the republic and the prime ministry to revise its security policy and to diagnose the errors," Samarrai said.

Many of the country's elected representatives are away on vacations that aren't expected to end until next month. Parliament might convene Friday morning, but it's unclear whether enough members will be present to accomplish anything other than symbolic gestures.

U.S. officials are helping with a forensics investigation into Wednesday's attacks on the ministries at the request of the Iraqi government, Maj. David Shoupe said.

Americans have a limited role because U.S. forces have left their bases in Iraqi cities as part of a withdrawal plan that reduces their presence through the end of 2011. The attacks haven't prompted Iraqi officials to ask to change the pact.

Anger at Iraqi officials mounted Thursday in Baghdad, with people blaming their own security forces for letting the truck bombs through checkpoints.

"I know the policy used by our security forces. They wait for the catastrophe to take place, and then they start running and searching," said Shakir Alwan, 33, a taxi driver.

Officers on the street were more aggressive Thursday in searching vehicles at checkpoints, stopping many that would have sailed through in the days and weeks before Wednesday's attacks. They barred large trucks from entering Baghdad from the west, slowing deliveries from Syria and other trading partners.

Few people were outside, however, and traffic stalled only at vehicle checkpoints.

"I thought I would find the main streets very busy, but when we got to the main streets, they were relatively empty, very few cars, but at the same time very long lines at the checkpoints," said Juman al Obaidi, 35, whose usual 45-minute drive to work took two and a half hours.

She shared Alwan's skepticism that the checkpoints were doing any good.

"If they were, how was it that trucks loaded with tons of explosives were able to get to those sensitive locations without being discovered? A child wouldn't believe it," she said.

Thursday's stepped-up searches missed a booby-trapped motorcycle in Baghdad's Rasheed district. It exploded at about 8 a.m. and killed two people.

(Issa is a McClatchy special correspondent. Ashton reports for The Modesto (Calif.) Bee.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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