RAMADI, Iraq, (Reuters) – The police chief of Iraq’s western Anbar province was fired on Thursday and authorities imposed a curfew in its capital Ramadi, after bombings killed 27 people and wounded the provincial governor, police said.
The dismissal of Major-General Tareq Yusuf appeared to reflect concerns about rising violence in Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland before national elections on March 7. Two suicide bombers struck in rapid succession on Wednesday near a provincial government headquarters in Ramadi.
Provincial authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew in the city on Thursday, banishing people from the streets, except for emergencies, until further notice.
Anbar’s provincial council fired Yusuf as police commander for the province, Police Lieutenant Colonel Jabbar Ajaj said. “The decision came as a result of the attacks which took place yesterday,” he said.
Overall violence in Iraq has fallen sharply as the country prepares for the elections and responsibility for security shifts from U.S. to local forces. But the Ramadi attacks, along with a roadside bombing that killed seven pilgrims in Khalis, north of Baghdad, on Wednesday, underscored the resilience of the Iraqi insurgency.
The Ramadi bombers appeared to target provincial Governor Qassim Mohammed. Police said the first bomber detonated explosives in a vehicle and a second struck on foot.
Mohammed was flown by U.S. forces to Baghdad for treatment. Sadoon Khraibit, a member of Anbar’s governing council, was wounded in the attack and later died in hospital, police said.
Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the Ramadi and Khalis attacks as the work of al Qaeda and Saddam supporters. The killings were designed “to shake stability and peace in the country and to spread fear and terror among the people, especially with the closeness of the parliamentary elections on March 7”, he said.
Anbar, the heart of Iraq’s Sunni Islamist insurgency following the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, became relatively secure after tribal leaders stood in opposition to al Qaeda insurgents in 2006.
But a series of recent attacks stirred concerns that violence will rise before the parliamentary elections. The Sunni minority, which dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein, fear the Shi’ite majority could push them from power for good.