Thu, Jul 07, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Iraqi minister offers to quit after fatal blasts

AFP, BAGHDAD

Iraqis light candles on Tuesday at the site of a suicide car bomb attack that took place early on Sunday in Baghdad’s Karrada neighborhood, killing at least 250 people and wounding more than 200.

Photo: AFP

Iraqi Minister of the Interior Mohammed Ghabban on Tuesday submitted his resignation, as authorities sought to contain the fallout from a bombing in Baghdad that killed more than 200 people and triggered widespread anger.

Officials, apparently seeking to shore up their image after the attack claimed by the Islamic State group, had already announced new security measures, the execution of five convicts and the arrest of 40 militants.

The suicide car bombing ripped through Baghdad’s Karrada District early on Sunday when it was teeming with shoppers ahead of the holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, sparking infernos in nearby buildings.

“I placed my resignation before the prime minister,” Ghabban told a news conference, though it was unclear if it would be accepted, and he may yet stay in office.

Ghabban said the bomb-rigged car came from Diyala Province, meaning it likely successfully navigated a security checkpoint on the way into the capital.

He described as “absolutely useless” the checkpoints that are littered throughout capital, which have long been a pillar of government efforts to secure the city.

However, he did not directly accept responsibility for the bombing, rather saying the security system was fundamentally flawed and that he could not “be responsible for the blood and responsible for this confusion in this security system.”

Ghabban called for a series of changes, including transferring responsibility for the capital’s security from the Baghdad Operations Command to the interior ministry, which would ultimately increase the minister’s power.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced changes to security measures following the blast, including scrapping fake bomb detectors that were still in use years after the man who sold them to Iraq was jailed for fraud in Britain.

Authorities also hailed the arrest of 40 militants who were said to be connected to planned attacks, while the Ministry of Justice announced the execution of five convicts, linking the timing to the Baghdad blast.

As Iraqi politicians maneuvered to contain the fallout from the bombing, family and friends were still waiting to learn the fate of the missing.

Iraqi Minister of Health Adila Hamoud on Tuesday said that of the 250 people killed in the bombing, DNA testing would be required to identify more than half.

She said 150 bodies “required DNA testing and matching with the families of the victims,” because they had been burned by the fire that followed the blast.

Hamoud did not specify how many had been identified so far, but said the process was expected to take between 15 and 45 days.

The delays have angered relatives, some of whom, including a man named Yadullah Mahmud, confronted Hamoud as she visited the forensics department in Baghdad responsible for identifying the victims.

Mahmud, who lost six relatives in the bombing, said the family had brought what he believes are ashes of the victims to the morgue.

“We aren’t able ... to identify them, but there are clues,” such as mobile SIM cards, rings and clothes they were wearing, he said.

A stretcher piled with ashes, some of which had spilled over the side onto the blood-streaked floor, sat near the door inside the morgue.

Iraqis have turned out to donate blood to help the victims of the blast, and about two dozen people were doing so at the national blood bank on Tuesday.

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