Al-Maliki Orders Baghdad Security Shake Up

Iraqis inspect the aftermath of a bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) AP Photo/Hadi Mizban

Updated at 2:24 p.m. EST
Iraqi state TV says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a shake-up at the top of Baghdad security as the government faces mounting pressure after the latest wave of bombings in Baghdad.

Al-Iraqiya TV says Lt. Gen. Ahmed Hashim Ouda will rise to the position of commander of Baghdad security. The current chief, Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, will take Ouda's old position as deputy chief of staff.

The announcement Wednesday comes amid rising anger after a wave of coordinated blasts around the capital. At least 127 people died in the Tuesday attacks.

Iraq's parliament asked top security officials Wednesday to appear before a special session to answer for how bombers once again found holes in Iraqi security that allowed for devastating attacks against government sites.

The string of suicide bombings Tuesday killed at least 127 people - the third attack against government targets to produce mass casualties in heavily guarded downtown Baghdad - and brought angry calls by lawmakers for resignations and tough questions about the abilities of Iraqi forces ahead of a U.S. withdrawal of combat troops.

Parliament's speaker has called on the ministers of defense and interior as well as the commander of Baghdad military operations to appear before Thursday's session, said Omar al-Mashhadani, the speaker's spokesman. Other security officials also have been asked to appear, he added.

Top security officials have been called twice - and twice failed to appear - before parliament over questions about security lapses after suicide bombers in August and October killed scores in attacks against ministry buildings.

This time, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani has agreed to attend the session under one condition - the session not be held behind closed doors, according to a statement released by his office. It was not known if other officials called would attend.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also was expected to attend the session, al-Mashhadani said.

Until now, al-Maliki has not replaced any of this top security advisers. Al-Maliki has been running for re-election on a platform of improved security, and security failures could cost him as well as his political party at the polls.

U.S. and Iraqi military officials have warned of a possible rise in violence ahead of the March 7 parliamentary elections. The U.S. military has said it will keep the bulk of its 120,000 troops in place in Iraq until after the election.

Abbas al-Bayati, the head of parliament's defense committee, said Iraq must have an emergency plan to deal with any violence ahead of the elections.

"The Iraqi people need convincing answers from the security commanders," al-Bayati told state run television. "If the security falls apart, then everything will collapse."

While violence has dramatically declined in Iraq, insurgents have continued with some regularity to launch attacks against security forces and civilians.

On Wednesday, there were scattered reports of violence across the capital.

A bomb attached to a minibus exploded in northern Baghdad, killing two and injuring 11, an Iraqi army official said.

A bomb hidden in a garbage heap killed two street sweepers and injured three passers-by in northern Baghdad, while an hour later in the same neighborhood a gunman killed a police officer at a checkpoint, police said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Meanwhile, rescue operations were halted Wednesday at the labor and finance ministries as well as the court complex after crews finished looking through the debris, said police Col. Safaa Saadi Jawad, the deputy head of the Interior Ministry's rescue operations.

"If we receive reports from families of missing people, we will look some more," he said.

Funerals also were under way for bombing victims. Some families carried black flag-draped coffins through the streets, while others waited at the morgue to claim bodies authorities were still working to identify.
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