Minister Says Iraqi Security Forces May Have Colluded in Baghdad Bombings

By Zaid Sabah
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, August 23, 2009

BAGHDAD, Aug. 22 -- Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said Saturday that the coordinated attack that killed more than 100 people, including dozens of his employees, in Baghdad on Wednesday may have been carried out with the complicity of Iraqi security forces.

During a strikingly blunt news conference at the severely damaged Foreign Ministry, Zebari, a Kurd, accused Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government of hubris in talking up its ability to protect citizens.

"The operation was organized and planned for months," Zebari said. "I don't rule out that there was collaboration by the security forces."

Two massive bombings struck the Foreign and Finance ministries early Wednesday morning, marking the deadliest day since the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities and the most devastating attack on government facilities since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Zebari said that in recent weeks the government had grown overconfident about its ability to provide security, removing one line of blast walls around the Foreign Ministry and a nearby checkpoint.

"Regrettably, we accepted the orders to remove these walls," he said, citing a "false general sense of the security situation." Concrete blocks were reinstalled Saturday.

Surveillance camera footage aired on Iraqi television showed a truck loaded with red water tanks approaching the ministry building Wednesday shortly before an enormous blast. Iraqi officials said the tanks were packed with fertilizer and artillery shells.

"If you see the video, the vehicle was moving comfortably," Zebari said. "How can a truck like this be allowed to pass near sensitive areas that include the Foreign Ministry, the Green Zone and the parliament?"

Zebari said Maliki's administration got ahead of itself, focusing on luring foreign investors while the country remains far from able to handle security.

"In all their statements, they call foreign companies to come and invest in Iraq," he said. "So if people see ministries targeted and residents slaughtered in the streets, where is that security?"

Maliki has blamed the attack on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and suggested that they may have conspired with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. On Thursday, his government detained 11 army and police commanders responsible for security in the targeted areas, accusing them of negligence.

In Iraq, top ministry jobs are distributed to leaders of political parties under a complex power-sharing formula. Maliki has long had a strained relationship with Kurdish leaders, but even so, Zebari's remarks Saturday were uncharacteristically sharp.

Iraqi army officials said Friday that they had arrested members of the bombing cell that had carried out the attacks, but no proof or details were offered. Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said suicide bombers had carried out the attacks.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company