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Iraqi lawmakers seek review of security forces | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraqi lawmakers called Friday for a review to find and fix acknowledged shortcomings in the country’s U.S.-trained security forces that were revealed by a wave of bombings this week, including attacks on government buildings in Baghdad.

Lawmakers also called for an emergency session of parliament to address the security concerns, the deputy speaker said, as anger continued to mount over the attacks.

The bombings have shaken public confidence in Iraq’s security forces and caused some to wonder if the security transition from U.S. to Iraqi hands is happening to rapidly.

A bombing Friday at a vegetable market in southern Baghdad exposed more lapses in security. An explosives-packed truck used in the attack passed through an Iraqi police checkpoint but was not searched minutes before exploding at the market’s front gate, an Iraqi police official said. Two people were killed and 20 were wounded. The recommendation for a security review came out of a meeting of Iraq’s political blocs and the ministers of defense, interior and national security, said deputy speaker Khalid al-Attiyah.

The meeting was called by the parliament speaker to look into the bombings Wednesday, which primarily targeted government buildings, including the foreign and finance ministries. The attacks killed at least 101 people and wounded more than 500.

The attacks revealed “breaches and soft areas in our security system,” al-Attiyah said. “This matter requires a comprehensive review of the system and finding the shortcomings in order to fix them.”

The lawmakers and officials called for compensation to be paid to those wounded in the attacks and to relatives of those killed. They also recommended the creation of a joint committee of officials from the interior, defense and national security ministries to determine how to better investigate and prosecute insurgents.

The Iraqi government said it was increasing security at checkpoints near government buildings and markets and keeping concrete blast barriers around potential targets.

While Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq and accused them of stoking sectarian violence, authorities have detained 11 members of Iraq’s security forces on suspicion of negligence.

New details emerged Friday about the attacks Wednesday at the foreign and finance ministries.

The truck bombs were water tankers that were loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer and artillery shells, said Maj. Gen. Jihad al-Jabouri, commander of an Iraqi bomb disposal unit.

The truck bomb that exploded near the Foreign Ministry held two tons of explosives, while the one that targeted the Finance Ministry held one and a half tons of explosives, he said. The bombs were likely built in Baghdad because it would be impossible to drive such a bomb from a long distance, he added.

Clerics roundly criticized the Iraqi government during Friday prayers, calling for the prosecution of those officials responsible for security lapses. “If the government is unable to protect the people, it can get the help from the occupying troops who are the reason for this catastrophe in Iraq,” Sheik Ahmed Hassan al-Taha said during services at Baghdad’s main Sunni mosque.

But Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Mohammadawi blamed American troops during a sermon in the city of Kufa, saying the U.S. wanted Iraq’s security forces weak so U.S. troops could remain in the country longer.

U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities on June 30, and the recent bombings have raised fears about the readiness of Iraqi forces to provide security as the U.S. winds down combat operations.

Under an Iraqi-U.S. security pact that took effect Jan. 1, American forces will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. President Barack Obama has ordered all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving up to 50,000 U.S. troops in training and advising roles.

The U.S. military has not been asked to help provide additional security in Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq, though it has been asked by Iraq for help in gathering intelligence and analyzing evidence as part of the investigation into the recent bombings, said Maj. David Shoupe, a U.S. military spokesman.

In the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad, gunmen killed a bodyguard of a prominent tribal official during a drive-by shooting, an Iraqi police official said. Sheik Abdul-Rahman Dhahir al-Dhari escaped injury, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason as the others.

Al-Dhari is the cousin of Sheik Harith al-Dhari, who heads the Association of Muslim Scholars and has been accused by Iraqi authorities of having ties to Sunni insurgents.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military continued to release or hand over to the Iraqi government thousands of detainees nationwide, under the U.S.-Iraqi security pact.

Among the latest released was Amer al-Husseini, who ran anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s office in Baghdad. The U.S. has not released any details about allegations behind al-Husseini’s detention. Al-Husseini told The Associated Press it was because he was al-Sadr’s aide. He pledged his continuing support to al-Sadr and predicted the release of other Sadrists in the coming days, saying the cleric was pressing the Iraqi government for their release.