Accessibility links

Iraq's Al-Maliki Says Foreigners Behind Blasts

A US soldier secures one of the bombing sites on December 8.

A US soldier secures one of the bombing sites on December 8.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bombings that killed 112 people were carried out with foreign backing, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said today, as he signaled a shake-up of security officials to try to thwart pre-election violence.

A series of car bombs on December 8 ripped through Baghdad in Iraq's deadliest attack in six weeks, a brutal reminder of the threat still posed by an insurgency that has killed thousands since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

The attacks came hours before the government announced March 7 as the date for the parliamentary election, ending weeks of political bickering that had delayed the vote from mid-January and could have complicated U.S. military withdrawal plans.

"All Iraqis from all sects have faced the most ferocious terrorist campaign supported from abroad," Maliki said in a televised live address, without accusing any specific country.

In August, Maliki accused Syria of sheltering militants behind several bombings, including two strikes against government ministries that killed 95 people on August 19.

Iraq has also accused its neighbors of failing to prevent foreign fighters from crossing its borders, and of not doing enough to clamp down on funding for Al-Qaeda and other Sunni Islamist groups. The United States has said Iran trains and arms Shi'ite militants.

"This crime will prompt us to review security strategies. It will bring changes in positions of officials in order to develop tactics to confront these developing challenges," Maliki said.

He did not identify which officials may be dismissed.

Maliki's coalition won a 2005 general election on a platform of greater security and more jobs, and he has sought to build a cross-sectarian base as he campaigns for next year's vote.

He called for unity among Iraqis in the wake of the attacks.

"I call upon all political powers, ethnic groups and Iraqi people to be more united to face these challenges," he said.

Separately, four people were killed and 18 wounded in two incidents involving roadside bombs in Baghdad on December 9, police said.