Wed, October 28, 2009
World > Middle East > Fragile Baghdad rocked by bombs

Bloody Sunday a heavy blow for Iraqi gov't

2009-10-27 13:13:54 GMT2009-10-27 21:13:54 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Xinhua writer Liu Si

BEIJING, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- Baghdad was still immersed in grief and fear following a bloody Sunday, when two truck bombs exploded in the heart of Iraq's political district, killing at least 155 people and leaving more than 700 others wounded.

The coordinated blasts, which caused the biggest casualties since 2007, occurred less than three months ahead of the country's national elections, scheduled for Jan. 16 next year.

Observers said the attacks were a heavy blow for the Iraqi government and could affect the elections as well as the U.S. plan to pull out its troops from Iraq.

In the past several months, terrorist attacks have switched from civilian targets such as markets, restaurants or mosques to government buildings.

The attack on Aug. 19 was typical of this shift, as deadly truck bombs exploded near government ministries in Baghdad and killed and wounded some 1,300 people.

Both on Sunday and on Aug. 19, the trucks, which carried heavy loads of explosives, managed to pass through security checkpoints and travel to heavily-guarded government buildings, raising questions about the capability of government security forces.

Analysts said the bombings were an apparent attempt to demonstrate that the de facto Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, was unable to either safeguard people's lives or improve their livelihoods.

Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman of Baghdad operations command, said after the attacks: "The terrorists are targeting the government and the political process in the country."

However, al-Maliki, during his visit to the devastated sites shortly after the attacks, said that they would not affect the political process or the parliamentary elections and pledged to punish those who were behind the bombings.

Despite al-Maliki's efforts to restore confidence in its government following the attacks, fear and shock still prevailed among Iraqis, who were enraged by the apparent ineffectiveness of the security forces.

The al-Masriq newspaper quoted Mohammed al-Rubaie, a member from Baghdad Provincial Council, one of the targets hit on Sunday, as saying "the government, the forces affiliated to defense and interior ministries and Baghdad's operations command office are responsible for the attacks by trucks carrying tons of explosives which pass across checkpoints."

"They are boasting of security improvement, where is the improvement?" Rubaie said.

Some other Iraqi media also blamed al-Maliki for turning a blind eye to security loopholes but trumpeting a peaceful Iraq in a bid to win the elections.

The question of whether the al-Maliki government would be able to control the situation in the country has been to the forefront since the U.S. announced its gradual withdrawal of troops.

Iraqis are weary of violence -- a sentiment reflected in February when al-Maliki's Dawa party won provincial elections with a broad and nationalist message.

But the security situation has deteriorated since the United States handed over its security leadership to the Iraqi government on June 30.

Bloody Sunday and bloody Wednesday (Aug. 19) turned al-Maliki's promise into empty talk and cast a shadow over his election campaign.

The attacks came as Iraqi political leaders were to meet in the evening to find a way out of a deadlock over the proposed election bill, which threatens to delay the January election. The crisis talks came after the Iraqi parliament on Wednesday failed to overcome disagreement over the proposed law.

A delay in the elections would affect the U.S. plan to withdraw its troops from the troubled country.

Maj. Gen. Ali Ghaidan, the commander of Iraqi ground forces, said just a day before Sunday's bombings that he expected violence would "be increased during the coming nine months as the parliamentary elections are approaching and then until we have a new government."

"I am afraid that any political deadlock may delay the elections, and then there will be impacts on the security situation," Ghaidan said.

Analysts cautioned that delayed elections might trigger more attacks due to pre-election wrestling among Iraq's political parties. Al-Maliki is undoubtedly on a bumpy road to elections.

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