Iraq’s prime minister dismissed three officials in charge of Baghdad’s security on Friday after last weekend’s bombing that killed nearly 300 people and caused public outrage over the inadequacy of emergency services and the security apparatus.
The bombing, claimed by the ultra-hardline Sunni militant group Islamic State, was the deadliest in Iraq since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein 13 years ago.
A statement posted on Haider al-Abadi’s Facebook page said he had fired the commanders of military operations, the security services and intelligence in the capital.
“The sacking of the Baghdad Operations Commander was due to accumulated mistakes that cannot be overlooked,” said one senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It is a difficult decision and came at a critical time because we are engaged in a tough battle with Daesh, but it had to be made because of the catastrophic failure,” he said. Daesh is a derogatory name for Islamic State.
The official said the bombing was clear evidence of the weakness of the security apparatus in the capital.
“The car bomb came from outside the capital, crossing dozens of checkpoints before reaching the target. All of them answer to the operations command,” the source said.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabban resigned on Tuesday, after blaming the attack on a lack of communication between the various forces in charge of security in Baghdad.
The Commander of the joint Operations Command, General Talib Shaghati al-Kenani, is said to be temporarily responsible for the security of the capital, the source said.
FEARS OF MORE SECTARIAN VIOLENCE
Islamic State has lost ground since last year to U.S.-backed government forces and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in the territory they control in northern and western Iraq but still have the ability to strike the heart of the capital.
Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday criticised the government’s failure to deal effectively with the threat IS poses.
“Complacency among corrupt and failed (officials) at the expense of the blood and souls of innocents civilians is unbearable and needs to be stopped,” he said in his weekly sermon, read on his behalf in the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala, south of Baghdad.
Islamic State has also claimed a triple suicide attack late on Thursday near a Shi’ite mausoleum north of Baghdad, which killed at least 35 people, according to security sources.
Baghdad-based security analyst, Hisham al-Hashimi, said the attack made an escalation of sectarian strife highly likely.
Shi’ites form a majority in Iraq but northern and western provinces are mostly Sunni, including in Salahuddin where the Mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi is located.
Prominent Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his militia, the Peace Brigade, to deploy around the mausoleum, near Balad, about 93 km (58 miles) north of Baghdad.
Sadr’s militia is also deployed in Samarra, a nearby city that houses the shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi, the father of Sayid Mohammed whose mausoleum was attacked on Thursday.
A 2006 bombing destroyed the golden dome of that shrine, setting off a wave of sectarian violence.