Iraq on high alert following co-ordinated bombings by al-Qaeda splinter group


IRAQ HAS been put on red alert for fresh attacks following co-ordinated bombings last Wednesday in a dozen locations that killed at least 57 people, half of them members of the security forces.

Responsibility was claimed on Saturday by an al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, which declared its operations had targeted the “headquarters, centres and security barriers of the apostate army and police”.

A senior Iraqi intelligence official said suicide bombers were believed to have entered the country to attack targets in the capital before the US formally ends combat operations on September 1st.

He did not specify the number of infiltrators, from where they came or targets they intended to strike.

Prime minister Nuri al-Maliki previously blamed Syria for hosting dissidents and charged them with planning and carrying out attacks on US and Iraqi forces.

August has been the deadliest month in two years for the country’s security forces. Mr Maliki said Iraqi intelligence reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and members of the ousted Baath party were joining forces “to create fear and panic and kill more innocents”.

He commanded Iraq’s security forces “to go on highest alert and take precautionary measures to foil this criminal plan”.

He also called on “citizens to open their eyes, to observe the movements of those terrorists, to abort their evil planning and inform on any suspect movements as soon as possible”.

Mr Maliki claimed violent opponents would seek to exploit long-standing popular dissatisfaction and frustration over the government’s inability to provide electricity, water and jobs for the country’s 25 million people.

While most Iraqis blame him personally and the US for failing to provide security and services, Mr Maliki continues to manoeuvre for the top job more than five months after his State of Law bloc came in second in the parliamentary election.

His chief rival, Ayad Allawi, whose Iraqiya bloc took most seats, has not ceded the right to be given the first chance to form a government or agreed to a coalition with Mr Maliki.

The Shia allies of Mr Maliki are ready to partner his State of Law bloc but insist he be dropped as prime minister.

In a recent interview, Mr Maliki called Iraqiya, a secular party, “Sunni” and argued that the premiership should “definitely go to the Shia component”, although this is contrary to the 2005 Iraqi constitution.

Iraqiya has threatened to boycott any government formed by another bloc or faction.