Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki vows security shift as attacks kill 75
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said yesterday he would overhaul Iraq's security strategy as a two-day wave of violence killed at least 75 people including 24 police, bringing the month's death toll from unrest to 352.
"We are about to make changes in the high and middle positions of those responsible for security, and the security strategy," Maliki said.
"We will discuss this matter in the cabinet session tomorrow to take decisions," he said without providing further details.
"I assure the Iraqi people that they [militants] will not be able to return us to the sectarian conflict" that killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq in past years, he added.
A car bomb exploded in Shaab, a Shiite area in north Baghdad, at around the time Maliki spoke, killing 12 people and wounding at least 20, officials said - just the latest in a wave of bombings yesterday.
Two car bombs went off in the main southern port city of Basra, killing 13 people and wounding 48, while a wave of other bombings hit Baghdad, killing at least 11 people and wounding 102.
In Balad, north of the capital, a car bomb exploded near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, killing eight people and wounding at least 15.
Iraq is home to some of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam and is visited by hundreds of thousands of foreign pilgrims every year, most of them from neighbouring Iran.
Three Sahwa anti-al-Qaeda fighters were killed and 14 wounded in two separate attacks north of Baghdad, and a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul wounded three people.
Yesterday's violence comes after 24 police were killed overnight. Police Lieutenant Colonel Majid al-Jlaybawi said police and soldiers carried out a joint raid to free kidnapped police officers in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, but clashes ensued.
Twelve kidnapped policemen were killed and four wounded, although it was not immediately clear if they were caught in crossfire, killed by their abductors, or a combination of the two.
In the town of Haditha in Anbar province, gunmen attacked a police station, killing eight policemen, among them two officers, First Lieutenant Murad al-Hadithi and a doctor.
The security situation in Anbar, home to two of the main centres of Sunni anti-government protests that broke out almost five months ago, has deteriorated sharply. Gunmen also killed a shop owner in the northern city of Mosul on Sunday.
Tensions are festering between the government of Maliki, a Shiite, and Sunnis who accuse authorities of marginalising and targeting their community, including through wrongful detentions and accusations of involvement in terrorism.