Iraqi police among dead after suicide blasts kill 23


SUICIDE BOMBINGS in Ramadi’s fortified Green Zone have killed 23 people and wounded more than 100. One of those critically injured was the governor of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province.

Most of the dead and wounded were police officers. The first bomber blew up his vehicle yesterday at a checkpoint near the provincial administration’s office buildings, killing at least eight people. When governor Qassim Muhammad Fahdawi and other officials went to inspect the damage 15 minutes later, a second bomber ran towards them on foot. He was intercepted by police, and detonated a charge strapped to his body.

The deputy police chief was killed and the provincial police commander was among the 57 wounded in the co-ordinated strikes.

Anbar’s deputy governor Hekmat Khalaf Zeidan blamed al-Qaeda and the security forces for the attack. “I am astonished by the weakness of the security forces, which have been infiltrated,” he said. The second attacker was, apparently, identified as one of the governor’s bodyguards. The attacks were part of a series of 40 assassination attempts targeting police, politicians, religious and tribal figures in Anbar over the past month.

The assault was similar to an attack in Ramadi on October 11th, when 22 were killed and more than 60 wounded. On that occasion, two bombs exploded near the governor’s offices and a suicide bomber struck at the general hospital as victims were arriving for treatment.

This is a pattern often adopted by suicide missions. An initial blast is followed by a second, even more devastating explosion, which kills those already wounded and takes a heavy toll on rescuers.

The tactic was employed in massive bombings that killed more than 400 and wounded 1,500 at government ministries in Baghdad in August, October and December.

Ramadi is strategically located 100km (62 miles) west of Baghdad on the broad highway to the Jordanian border.

It is Anbar’s capital and is the mainly Sunni province which was the heartland of the post-war insurgency and an al-Qaeda stronghold.

The tribes turned against al-Qaeda in 2007 because civilians were being targeted. As a consequence they formed the Awakening Council militias that joined US forces against al-Qaeda.

But since the end of the US military “surge”, American forces have abandoned the 100,000 Sunni fighters, and the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad has failed to pay their salaries. It has also reneged on promised posts in the army and civil service.

Awakening Council commanders have been imprisoned, others killed and rank-and-file members jailed. This has prompted some council fighters to return to armed opposition which has widened the rift between Sunnis and the government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki who is running for re-election in the March 7th parliamentary election.

“Al-Qaeda and other groups are trying to destabilise security in the province ahead of the elections,” said head of Anbar’s provincial council Jassim Muhammad.

“Unless the police does its job well, these kind of challenges are going to be even bigger.”