Explosions in Baghdad, Mosul kill 9 people, expose continued security gaps in Iraq

By Lara Jakes, AP
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Explosions in 2 major Iraq cities kill 9 people

BAGHDAD — Car bombs and other explosions ripped through Iraq’s capital and a major northern city on Tuesday, killing nine people and highlighting once again the apparent ease with which insurgents can slip past security.

The explosions in Baghdad and Mosul came exactly a week after suicide bombers killed 127 people and wounded more than 500 in a series of bombings across the Iraqi capital — three of which appeared to target government buildings.

Tuesday’s blasts, raise fresh questions about the government’s ability to protect itself and its citizens as the country prepares for upcoming elections in March and the drawdown of U.S. forces that is expected to follow.

“There were two military checkpoints using detectors at the beginning of the street, how can such car bombs manage to enter and explode?” said a Baghdad woman who identified herself as Um Ali, her cheeks smeared with blood as she screamed at reporters, echoing the frustrations of many Iraqis.

In Baghdad, three car bombs detonated within minutes of each other in different areas near the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy, the Iraqi parliament and other government buildings.

One of the bombs went off near the Foreign Ministry, which was targeted in an August bombing; two others exploded near the Immigration Ministry and the Iranian Embassy.

Five people were killed and at least 16 wounded, according to Iraqi officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Authorities quickly arrested owners of three parking lots where the bombs exploded, charging them with failing to carefully search the cars and check vehicle registration papers.

Hours later and hundreds of miles away, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, two more car bombs and a roadside bomb killed four people. A doctor at the Mosul general hospital said as many as 40 were wounded in the separate blasts that targeted a busy neighborhood and a church.

Mosul is al-Qaida’s last urban stronghold in Iraq.

Baghdad is still reeling from last week’s suicide bombings, which mirrored attacks on Aug. 19 and Oct. 25 attacks that targeted government ministries and buildings and left more than 250 people dead.

The bombings have sparked outrage among Iraqi citizens and lawmakers who want Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government to be held accountable for what they describe as gaping security breaches.

Parliament Speaker Ayad al-Samarraie denounced Tuesday’s explosions as “heinous crimes,” and lashed out at Iraq’s intelligence services.

“There must be a firm stance, immediate measures and a review to all security plans,” al-Samarraie said.

Thick clouds of black smoke could be seen lingering over the area earlier in the day. Firefighters and neighborhood residents worked to put out fires, while Iraqi security forces fired their guns into the air to disperse growing crowds.

Iraqi and U.S. forces discovered a fourth car bomb before it exploded, Iraqi authorities said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombings. Insurgent groups associated with al-Qaida have claimed responsibility for the earlier explosions, although al-Maliki also has blamed loyalists of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

The American military has warned of a possible rise in violence with insurgents hoping to destabilize the government ahead of the March 7 parliamentary elections, and the U.S. military drawdown.

On Monday, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi acknowledged shortcomings in the security forces but said insurgents have changed their tactics amid the U.S. troop withdrawal.

He did not indicate what he meant by changing tactics. However, much of the recent violence has targeted government institutions, as opposed to violence at the height of the insurgency that appeared designed to spark Shiite-Sunni tensions.

The U.S. plans to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010.

Also in Baghdad, two lawmakers associated with the political party led by anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr escaped separate assassination attempts — one who came under fire by gunmen in a speeding car and the other who was targeted by a bomb attached to a vehicle in the lawmaker’s convoy.

Iraqi officials also took journalists on Tuesday to a camp of Iranian exiles near the border, which they are planning to move.

The Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, was hosted in Iraq for years by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but Iraq’s new Shiite dominated government has announced plans to move their camp to the southwest of the country.

The trip was an apparent attempt to show that they are treating the exiles fairly, following international criticism of the move.

During the tour, Iraqi military personnel using loudspeakers, read a statement to the camp’s residents in Farsi, emphasizing that the camp would be moved but that none of the residents would be forcibly returned to Iran.

The effort was met by derision by many of the group’s members who shouted that they would not leave their camp.


Associated Press Writers Chelsea J. Carter in Baghdad and Sameer N. Yacoub at Camp Ashraf, Iraq contributed to this report.

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