/ 27 October 2009

Baghdad governor wants minister sacked over carnage

Baghdad’s governor called on Tuesday for the Iraqi interior minister and the capital’s security forces chief to be fired over twin bombings claimed by al-Qaeda that killed at least 135 people.

Salah Abdul Razzaq’s fiery comments came at a press conference in the provincial government offices in central Baghdad that were a target of Sunday’s suicide vehicle bombings, the deadliest attacks in Iraq in more than two years.

”The provincial council voted today to depose the interior minister [Jawad al-Bolani] and the Baghdad operations commander, [Lieutenant General] Abboud Qanbar, over their failure to carry out their duties,” he said, while showing reporters CCTV footage of the explosions on a large screen.

Though Baghdad’s provincial council lacks the authority to dismiss either Bolani or Qanbar, their vote reflects widespread popular anger in the Iraqi capital directed toward the authorities.

Abdul Razzaq has emerged in the aftermath of the bombings as an outspoken critic of the security forces, accusing them of negligence or even collusion in the bombings.

”Military commands must leave the Green Zone — all of Baghdad must become ‘green’, security will only be achieved this way,” he said, referring to the heavily fortified area of Baghdad that houses embassies and ministries.

The governor, a Shiite, was elected to his post in provincial elections this year as a member of the multi-confessional State of Law coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that is to contest elections scheduled for January.

Bolani, meanwhile, is an independent Shi’ite MP allied to a separate multi-confessional bloc, the Iraqi Unity Alliance, which will also contest the nationwide parliamentary poll.

In Sunday’s attacks, a truck bomb and a minibus bomb targeted the Justice Ministry and the offices of the Baghdad provincial government, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 500 others.

”The latest toll for those killed in the two attacks, according to our information, is 135,” health ministry spokesman Dr Sabah Abdullah told Agence France-Presse.

Abdullah admitted that the actual casualty figures could be even higher, noting that several of the dead ”were taken to their homes directly, while some victims received medical treatment without going to a hospital.”

Senior Iraqi officials had previously put the death toll at 99, while Abdul Razzaq said on Monday that more than 155 people were killed.

The attacks were claimed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s front-group in the country, in an online statement, United States-based monitoring group Site Intelligence said on Tuesday.

It has previously also claimed responsibility for similar twin truck bombings outside two ministries in Baghdad in August that killed at least 95 people.

Defence Ministry spokesperson Major General Mohammed al-Askari has told Agence France-Presse that evidence linked Sunday’s bombers to al-Qaeda and supporters of the Baath Party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

The attacks have been widely condemned internationally and sparked a pledge by Maliki to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In August 2007 more than 400 people were slaughtered in four coordinated suicide truck bombs targeting the Yazidi religious sect in two Kurdish villages in north Iraq — the deadliest single day toll since the 2003 US-led invasion. — AFP