BAGHDAD (Asharq Al-Awsat and Agencies) – Al Qaeda’s umbrella group in Iraq claimed responsibility Thursday for the coordinated Baghdad bombings this week that killed 127 people and wounded more than 500, warning of more strikes against the Iraqi government.
The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, said in a statement posted on the Internet that the strikes in the Iraqi capital targeted the “bastions of evil and dens of apostates.”
It also warned the group is “determined to uproot the pillars of this government” in Iraq and said “the list of targets has no end.”
The blasts Tuesday were the third major strike against government sites in the Iraqi capital since August, raising serious questions about the abilities of Iraqi security forces ahead of next’s year national elections and the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops.
Major General Jihad al-Jabri, head of Iraq’s explosives unit, told journalists that the explosives used in the Tuesday attacks “were regular explosives that came from abroad, and the Baathists who used them were cooperating with Al Qaeda, and were being helped by a neighbouring country and this requires a lot of money and support.” He added “the state is not unaware of this issue.”
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was expected to attend a special parliamentary session Thursday where lawmakers demanded Iraq’s top security officials appear to answer questions over security lapses that allowed the attacks.
For his part, Ali al-Mousawi, the media adviser to the Iraqi Prime Minister, said that al-Maliki has a lot to say about the security file and the recent violations. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iraqi Prime Minister “is looking for an opportunity like this (his speech before parliament) to clarify the issues before parliament and the people.”
Al Qaeda’s claim gave renewed emphasis to U.S. military warnings that insurgents would likely continue high-profile attacks in an attempt to destabilize the Iraqi government in advance of the March 7 parliamentary elections.
Al-Maliki, who has been under fire in recent days from lawmakers and others to address security lapses, signaled the beginning of a possible security shake up late Wednesday after replacing the military chief in charge of Baghdad security.
It was unclear whether al-Maliki might take further action, or whether his interior and defense ministers would even attend the special session. Both ministers have refused to attend two other sessions called after suicide bombings against government buildings on Aug. 19 and Oct. 25. More than 250 were killed in those attacks.
Iraq has claimed Al Qaeda and loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party operating from Syria were behind the August and October as well as the most recent bombings. Relations between the two countries soured after Baghdad accused Syria of harboring senior Baathists who masterminded the attacks. Syria has denied it.
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who resigned as leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party in order to serve all of Iraq and is now free of any party affiliation, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the roadmap that will be adopted by the [political] bloc [known as the Iraqi National Movement] that he will form with Iyad Allawi, president of the Iraqi National Accord, and Saleh al-Mutlaq, the president of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, and others, will be an urgent political precedent for Iraq.