x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Iraq orders security shake-up after Baghdad blasts

Iraq's government orders a shake-up in the country's military leadership after suicide bombings kill 127 people in the capital.

BAGHDAD // Iraq's western-backed government - facing intense pressure to address security lapses after suicide bombings killed 127 people in the capital - has ordered a shake-up in the country's military leadership. The angry mood that led prime minister Nouri al Maliki to replace Baghdad's top military commander reveals a stark psychological shift among Iraqis who once accepted such violence as routine and are now demanding someone pay a political price.

Mr al Maliki appealed for Iraqis to be patient as he signaled more changes might be ahead for security officials. The prime minister was expected to attend a special parliamentary session today, where lawmakers demanded his security ministers answer for lapses that allowed for the attacks. "I call on the Iraqi people for more patience and steadfastness," Mr al Maliki said in a televised address. It was unclear whether the replacement of Lt Gen Abboud Qanbar would quiet outraged lawmakers, who are questioning how suicide bombers managed to launch multiple attacks on Tuesday in heavily guarded central Baghdad. The blasts wounded more than 500.

Much of Mr al Maliki's appeal was aimed at calming anger that has united Iraq's ethnic and sectarian rivals - from Kurd to Arab, Shiite to Sunni - with their calls on Iraq's interior and defence ministers to resign. "They have proved failures," said Saadi al-Barzanji, a Kurdish politician. Even the group that Iraq has accused of masterminding this week's bombings as well as two previous major attacks has called on security officials to step down.

"He who cannot ensure security for Iraqis should leave," Baath party spokesman Khudair al Murshidi told Al Jazeera in an interview from Syria. Mr al Murshidi has denied that loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party were behind any of the attacks. Top security officials have twice failed to appear after being called before lawmakers. Those request followed suicide bombings against government buildings August 19 and October 25. More than 250 were killed in the earlier attacks.

* AP