Iraq: Open war with Qaeda

2010-04-07 22:13

Baghdad - Deadly bomb attacks in Baghdad are aimed at pressuring political blocs battling to form a government, a top politician said on Wednesday, as Iraq declared "war" on al-Qaeda over the surge in violence.

Six bombs in the capital killed at least 35 people on Tuesday, two days after another co-ordinated set of attacks against foreign embassies killed 30 people.

The sudden wave of attacks has fuelled fears that insurgents are making a return due to a political impasse following March 7 elections.

"They have a political motive - they are being used as pressure on the political blocs," Baghdad Governor Salah Abdul Razzaq told AFP, adding that he believed the attacks were intended to put pressure on particular lists as they carried out negotiations over government formation.

He did not say which blocs he was referring to or elaborate further.

His remarks reiterate those of Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, following warnings from security officials that a protracted period of coalition formation could give insurgents an opportunity to further destabilise Iraq.

Iraqi political parties are still locked in negotiations in a bid to form a government, nearly a month after the election left four main blocs each without sufficient seats to form a parliamentary majority on its own.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law Alliance finished with 89 seats in the 325-member parliament after the March 7 parliamentary elections, two fewer than ex-premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc.

Need new government

Allawi on Wednesday warned that it may be another two months yet before there is a new government in Iraq.

"We need the results to be officially announced... by the supreme court," he told US broadcaster CNN.

"And then I guess it will take us in the range of within two months to form - I hope to form a government."

Allawi added that a new government should not only be inclusive, but one "that can do whatever is necessary (in) the field of security, stability and also in the field of services and reducing unemployment."

Meanwhile, results from an unofficial "referendum" by supporters of a powerful Iran-based cleric released on Wednesday placed both Maliki and Allawi far behind an ex-premier under whom Iraq's sectarian conflict erupted.

The April 2-3 nationwide poll organised by the radical anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called Ibrahim al-Jaafari as the top choice for prime minister.

The poll that has no legal standing placed Jaafar al-Sadr, the son of another senior cleric who founded Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party and was murdered in 1980, in second place. Maliki came a distant fourth followed by Allawi.

Al-Qaeda and Baath

The referendum is being seen as a way for the Sadrist bloc, whose leader has been living in neighbouring Iran for about two years, to avoid giving its backing to Maliki, who ordered a 2008 offensive against the group's armed wing.

Iraqi officials have blamed al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent groups for the surge in violence.

"We are in a war. In our case, it is an open war with remnants of al-Qaeda and the Baath" party of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad security spokesperson Major General Qassim Atta told Al-Arabiya television.

"There has been support for terrorist groups from outside Iraq, from people who don't want to see the political process be a success," he added, without elaborating.

The latest violence follows a Saturday attack south of Baghdad blamed on al-Qaeda in which security officials said 25 villagers linked to an anti-Qaeda militia were rounded up and shot execution-style by men in army uniforms.

The United States insisted that the upsurge of bloodletting would not compromise its goal of withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq by the end of August.

Although the frequency of attacks by insurgents has dropped significantly since peaking in 2006 and 2007, figures released on Thursday showed 367 Iraqis were killed in violence last month - the highest number this year.