Iraq’s PM to alter security strategy as violence rages

AFP, BAGHDAD and Tikrit, Iraq

Wed, May 22, 2013 - Page 6

Four bombings in northern Iraq killed five people and wounded 69 yesterday, officials said, the latest in a spate of violence that has killed more than 370 people so far this month. Yesterday’s attacks came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced an overhaul of Iraq’s security strategy.

Two car bombs exploded in a Turkmen Shiite area of Tuz Khurmatu, a town in Salaheddin Province, killing three people, wounding 44 and causing extensive damage to 10 houses, police and a doctor said.

Two roadside bombs detonated in a sheep market in the city of Kirkuk, killing two people and wounding 25, other officials said.

The bombings came a day after attacks killed more than 60 people across Iraq.

Al-Maliki said the matter would be discussed at a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“We are about to make changes in the high and middle positions of those responsible for security, and the security strategy,” Maliki told journalists in Baghdad on Monday.

Cabinet would discuss the matter yesterday, he said.

“I assure the Iraqi people that they [militants] will not be able to return us to the sectarian conflict” that killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq in past years, he added.

Just hours after his statement, bombings during evening prayers at two Shiite mosques in Hilla, south of Baghdad, killed 13 people and wounded another 71, police and a doctor said.

One bomb exploded inside al-Wardiyah mosque, while a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged belt at al-Graita mosque nearby. Dozens of mosques have been attacked in Iraq so far this year.

Earlier on Monday, at about the time al-Maliki spoke, a car bomb exploded in Shaab, a Shiite area of north Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding at least 20, officials said.

Two car bombs went off in the main southern port city of Basra, killing 13 people and wounding 48, while a wave of other bombings hit Baghdad, killing at least 11 people and wounding 102.

In Balad, north of the capital, a car bomb exploded near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing eight people and wounding another 15.

The US condemned the attacks.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday the US was “deeply concerned by the frequency and the nature of recent attacks, including bombings today.”

US officials had contacted a wide range of Iraqi leaders “to urge calm and help resolve ongoing political and sectarian tensions,” he said.

Iraq is home to some of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam and is visited by hundreds of thousands of foreign pilgrims every year, most of them from neighboring Iran.

Six Sahwa anti-al-Qaeda fighters were also killed and 27 wounded in three separate attacks north of Baghdad.

The Sahwa are made up of Sunni Arab tribesmen who joined forces with the US military against al-Qaeda from late 2006, helping to turn the tide against the insurgency.

Also a car bomb killed one person and wounded four in Rutba, a town in Anbar Province, while a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul wounded three people.