Iraq lawmakers says bombing will unite them

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi parliament met in special session on Friday in a show of defiance after a suicide bombing in the building that deputies said united them in their resolve to fight terrorism.

By (Reuters)

Published: Fri 13 Apr 2007, 6:55 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 9:06 PM

The bombing on Thursday, which killed one lawmaker, was the worst breach of security in Baghdad’s most secure area -- the Green Zone that houses parliament, government offices and the US embassy. The US military blamed the attack on al Qaeda.

Three cafeteria workers had been detained for questioning but had not been charged. Some parliamentary guards were also being investigated but none was being held, Hasan al-Senaid, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Shia Alliance, said.

Security was stepped up in the zone on Friday, witnesses said. All vehicles and their drivers were being thoroughly searched, mobile checkpoints set up and several streets blocked off as police raided some houses inside the sprawling compound.

Parliament Speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani opened the special session by asking MPs to read verses of the Koran to mourn the death of Mohammed Awdh, a member of the National Front for Iraqi Dialogue, a Sunni party that holds 11 seats in parliament.

“The martyrdom of Mohammed Awadh gave us lessons, the first of which is unity and to be united together against terrorism,” leading Shia politician Hadi al-Aamiry told fellow MPs.

“This is undeniably a difficult blow, but it should unify us to confront the evil of terrorism and it proves that terrorism is indiscriminate -- Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Arabs were maimed in this attack,” Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh told Reuters.

Iraqi officials are investigating how the suicide bomber managed to slip past multiple checkpoints and blow himself up among lawmakers in parliament’s cafeteria, targeting lawmakers from across Iraq’s deep religious divide.

The Interior Ministry said it would not comment on the specifics of the investigation.

The US military initially said eight people were killed and more than 20 wounded in Thursday’s blast. But on Friday they revised the tally down to one killed and two dozen wounded, in line with figures from Iraqi officials.

The head of Awdh’s party, Saleh Al Mutlak, suggested the bombing had been linked to the unusual collapse of mobile phone networks in Baghdad on Thursday.

Washington and some Iraqi politicians dismissed suggestions the attack signalled a failure of a two-month-old US-Iraqi security crackdown in the capital that aims to avert a slide to full-scale civil war.

“These operations were meant to send a message that the government is unable to protect itself. But the security plan did not include the international zone. The security plan is ongoing and the only effect this can have is by bringing improvements to the plan,” said Hasan al-Shimmari, a senior Shia lawmaker.

Rrevising security

But Iraqi officials acknowledged there would have to be a revision of security procedures at the parliament. There have been persistent claims that the bomber had inside help.

“Just like the security apparatus make their plans, the criminals make their own plans, and they must have their aides here and there too,” Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf told Reuters.

The US military disclosed earlier this month that two suicide vests had been found in the zone. A third suspected vest is known to have been missing.

The explosives used in Thursday’s attack would have had to pass through an outer checkpoint manned by US and Iraqi troops and multiple inner checkpoints guarded by security contractors and foreign troops that are part of the US-led coalition.

The review of security procedures will likely look at the special passes given to some VIPs and their bodyguards that allow them to pass into parliament without being searched.

Entry into the conference centre is restricted to accredited parliamentary staff, lawmakers, security guards and journalists. Access to the cafeteria itself is restricted to lawmakers, police and kitchen staff.

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