Iraqi PM sacks top security officials

Iraqis gathering at the site of Sunday's blast in the capital Baghdad, which killed 292 people. Experts have warned that more bombings are possible as ISIS loses ground on the battlefield.
Iraqis gathering at the site of Sunday's blast in the capital Baghdad, which killed 292 people. Experts have warned that more bombings are possible as ISIS loses ground on the battlefield.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Dismissals come shortly after ISIS attacks that killed more than 300 people

BAGHDAD • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi yesterday sacked the head of the Baghdad security command and other top officials, hours after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group carried out an attack on a Shi'ite shrine north of Baghdad that killed at least 30 people.

The dismissals came days after a bombing in the capital on Sunday, also claimed by the militant group, killed 292 people. It was one of the deadliest bombings by militants in the country.

Mr Abadi yesterday issued "an order to relieve the Baghdad Operations commander of his position", as well as remove officials responsible for intelligence and security in the capital, a statement said.

The head of the Baghdad Operations Command was Lieutenant-General Abdulamir al-Shimmari. An official in Mr Abadi's office said the others removed were the head of Interior Ministry intelligence for Baghdad and the official responsible for the capital in the national security adviser's office.

Iraq's Interior Minister tendered his resignation after Sunday's bombing but yesterday's statement was the first announcing that officials were fired following the attack.

In Thursday evening's attack, militants targeted the Sayyid Mohammed shrine in Balad, 70km north of Baghdad, killing 30 people and wounding 50, Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahya Rasool told AFP.

The Shi'ite shrine was attacked with mortar fire, then by suicide bombers wearing security force uniforms, he said.

Security forces fired on the bombers, who were unable to enter the shrine, and two of them blew themselves up while a third was shot dead, he said.

The attack sparked a fire that caused heavy damage to the market near the shrine, an AFP journalist reported.

The ISIS-linked Amaq news agency said that five ISIS militants attacked the shrine, where worshippers were gathered, clashing with Iraqi forces for hours and then detonating explosives they were carrying.

Assaults against Shi'ites by Sunni extremists make it difficult for Mr Abadi, a Shi'ite, to achieve meaningful progress in reconciling Iraq's majority Shi'ites with Sunnis, even as his armed forces have won victories against ISIS on the battlefield.

In response to the battlefield setbacks, the extremist group has hit back against civilians, and experts have warned there may be more bombings as the militants continue to lose ground.

The bombings over the last few days have left hundreds dead, triggering outrage at the inadequacy of emergency services and the security apparatus.

Sunday's bombing occurred when a suicide bomber blew up a minibus packed with explosives in a Baghdad shopping district teeming with people ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, sparking widespread anger against the government.

Health Minister Adila Hamoud Hamoud said yesterday the bodies of 115 killed in the Baghdad bombing had been handed over to families, while the identities of 177 others had yet to be determined. Many have been furious over delays in determining the fate of their loved ones.

Police Major-General Talib Khalil Rahi said on Thursday that the suicide bomber detonated a minibus loaded with plastic explosives and ammonium nitrate. It was the first time the authorities provided details about the bomb used in the attack.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Iraqi PM sacks top security officials'. Print Edition | Subscribe