BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – A court sentenced 11 Iraqis on Thursday to death by hanging for planning and carrying out massive truck bombings in Baghdad last August that killed 95 people and wounded more than 1,000.
The bombs targeted Iraq’s foreign and finance ministries, sites that are among the most heavily guarded in Iraq, and damaged public confidence in Iraqi forces ahead of an election in March and as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.
“Today an Iraqi criminal court imposed a death sentence against 11 criminals who have been convicted of implementing, planning and funding the bomb events that targeted the finance and foreign ministries,” said Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, a spokesman for the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council.
The convicted men have the right to appeal, Birqdar said.
The devastating blasts, which shattered government ministries and other targets at the heart of Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, occurred a month and a half after U.S. combat troops withdrew from urban centres.
A parliamentary security committee this week reported that elements in the Iraqi security forces were complicit in the blast and two other major bombings in Baghdad and recommended replacing some top officials in the Defence and Interior ministries.
Overall violence levels in Iraq have declined following bloody sectarian fighting that killed thousands of people after the 2003 U.S. invasion. But a series of well coordinated and sophisticated bombings last year damaged confidence in the ability of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqi soldiers and police to contain the stubborn insurgency.
Western Anbar province, Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland, has also been hit recently by a series of attacks targeting government officials and security forces.
U.S. and local officials have predicted more such attacks in the weeks leading up to key parliamentary elections on March 7 and before U.S. forces are officially scheduled to end combat operations in August.