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Iraq Prime Minister Blames Sunni Insurgents for Baghdad Bombings


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is blaming Sunni insurgents for Wednesday's wave of bomb and mortar attacks in Baghdad. At least 95 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The strikes targeted two key government buildings, the Foreign and Finance Ministries. And the attacks continued on Thursday when a bomb exploded in central Baghdad, killing two people and wounding at least 10. VOA's Deborah Block looks at the violence and its importance.

Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since American troops withdrew from Iraqi cities at the end of June.

The most devastating attack was across the street from Iraq's Foreign Ministry, where a truck bomb exploded, knocking out concrete slabs and windows and leaving a mass of burned cars.

Minutes earlier, another truck bomb took aim at the Finance Ministry, detonating explosives near a military patrol. Two commercial areas were torn up in separate blasts.

No one has claimed responsibility for the violence, but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is blaming Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida. He said his government must re-evaluate security measures.

General Frank Helmick is the U.S. commander in charge of training Iraqi forces. In a televised news briefing with reporters at the Pentagon, he did not answer specific questions regarding the attacks. But he said there was clearly a lapse in security. "These events clearly demonstrate that security is not only an on-going process, it is a never ending commitment. One attack in Iraq is one too many," he said.

Defense Analyst Steven Biddle follows the situation at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. He thinks another major factor is involved. "I am concerned that the recent bombings in Baghdad are an indication of concern in the larger Sunni community, not just al-Qaida in Iraq, about their likely fate under a Shiite-dominated Maliki government once the United States is disengaged from the country," he said.

Prime Minister Maliki says Sunni insurgents were taking advantage of government efforts to restore normalcy. The government has been removing concrete blast walls from the main roads in Baghdad that were set up to prevent violence.

But Biddle says the problem goes beyond those walls. He says the Sunni community feels it is not fairly represented in the Shiite-led government.

"A Shiite government that they were looking to, to hire their members into the Iraqi security forces, to include them in the economic future of the country, to not arrest the membership of the Sunni community in the form of the Sons of Iraq groups, has not been making good on any of those promises and expectations. And I can't help but think that part of what we're now seeing in this increase in violence, is that Sunni community trying to say to Maliki, there are costs to reneging on all those agreements," he said.

Biddle says it will be difficult for Iraqi security forces to curtail Sunni attacks, unless Sunnis decide to stop them like they did in 2007. "The decisive issue is whether the Sunni Community in Iraq will tolerate bombers and bombing activity against civilians in Iraq. If they will, because otherwise they think they will be oppressed by the Shiite government, I don't think any feasible increase in the proficiency of the Iraqi security forces will be enough to prevent the bombings," he said.

Because of the threat of bloodshed, Biddle says U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq slowly, with no set timetable, instead of by the end of 2011.

The Maliki cabinet proposed this week that a referendum be held in January on how long U.S. troops should stay in Iraq.

Analysts say if the referendum is held, Iraqis would likely vote for a pullout a year early.

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