Iraq Arrests Police Officers and Soldiers After Bombings
Iraq announced Thursday that it had arrested dozens of police officers and army soldiers responsible for security in the neighborhood where car bombs killed and wounded hundreds of people outside government buildings this week.
The attacks on Sunday, aimed at the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial council buildings, occurred in a heavily protected section of the capital, prompting accusations that Iraq’s security forces had been complicit in the bombings.
The twin suicide attacks killed 155 people and wounded more than 500.
Among the 61 people in security jobs arrested Thursday were the commanders of local police posts and the soldiers and police officers responsible for security checkpoints in downtown Baghdad near the buildings.
The arrest order was announced by the Baghdad Operations Command, which is responsible for security in the capital and reports directly to Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki. The announcement did not offer any further details, so it remained unclear whether the 61 security force members were suspected of having aided those who carried out the attacks.
On Thursday, the Iraqi Parliament failed again to approve a law to govern national elections scheduled for January. The session was canceled for lack of a quorum after Kurdish members boycotted it to protest a proposal for voting rules in Kirkuk, a disputed province in northern Iraq. Kirkuk, which sits atop billions of barrels of oil, is claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens.
Under Saddam Hussein, many Kurds were driven out of the area and replaced by Arabs, a process that was reversed after the United States invasion. The proposal calls for combining the 2004 and 2009 voter registration rolls, but the Kurds say Arabs would be overrepresented under this plan.
The election law issue was further complicated Thursday when Hamdia al-Hussaini, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission, which oversees elections here, said the 2004 voter rolls were severely flawed.
Hussaini said election officials had sought to use 2004 registration information during the 2005 parliamentary elections, but quickly determined that the war had rendered the data useless.
“We realized it was not accurate because there had been so much displacement,” she said, “so we started relying on ration card documents instead.”
The dispute over the election law threatens to delay the elections, a setback that could also postpone the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces out of concern about resulting instability.
A joint statement on Thursday from the U.S. ambassador, Christopher R. Hill, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, urged Parliament to approve election legislation quickly — the second such statement this month.
“We urge Iraqi political leaders to work out their differences and take swift action to do what is in the best interest of the Iraqi people so they may exercise their democratic rights,” the statement said.