- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2009

BAGHDAD | Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed Wednesday to Iraqis to stand by their security forces, even as angry lawmakers demanded answers and called on top officials to resign following the third massive terrorist attack against government sites since summer.

Mr. al-Maliki was expected to attend a special parliamentary session Thursday, where lawmakers have demanded his interior and defense ministers appear to answer questions on how terrorist bombers once again found holes in security in heavily guarded central Baghdad, according to the parliament speaker’s spokesman.

Mr. al-Maliki appeared ready to make some changes. State-run Iraqiya TV reported that he ordered a shake-up at the top of Baghdad security - moving the deputy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Hashim Ouda, to the top spot. The current commander, veteran military leader Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, will take Gen. Ouda’s post, the announcement said.

The shuffle, however, doesn’t come close to the wholesale purges demanded by some lawmakers and other critics.

Mr. al-Maliki asked Iraqis for patience and warned against fomenting political divisions following Tuesday’s string of suicide bombings that killed at least 127 people and wounded more than 500 in the Iraqi capital.

“I call on the Iraqi people for more patience and steadfastness,” he said Wednesday in a televised address.

The deadly bombings raised tough questions for Mr. al-Maliki about the abilities of Iraq’s security forces ahead of next year’s withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. The U.S. military has warned of a possible rise in violence ahead of the March 7 parliamentary elections.

Ayad al-Samarrie, the parliament speaker, called on the interior and defense ministers, the commander of Baghdad military operations and other security officials to appear before the special session, said Omar al-Mashhadani, the speaker’s spokesman.

Top security officials have been called twice before - and failed to show up - to answer questions in parliament about security lapses after suicide bombers in August and October killed hundreds in attacks on other government buildings.

This time, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani agreed to attend the session under one condition - that it not be held behind closed doors, according to a statement released by his office. It was not immediately clear whether his demand was met or whether other officials would attend.

There have been no claims of responsibility for the latest attacks, though Iraq has claimed al Qaeda and loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party were behind the August and October attacks as well as the most recent bombings.

Mr. al-Maliki appeared to demand that Syria must do more to stop senior Ba’ath Party officials living on its territory from plotting attacks against Iraq. The prime minister has in the past accused Syria of harboring senior Ba’athists who masterminded attacks in Iraq. Syria denies the charges.

Meanwhile, Liza, a ginger-colored dog stranded alone atop the bombed-out ruins of her Baghdad home, was reunited with her owners Wednesday after a night spent chained to a railing, bringing a few smiles after the Iraqi capital’s latest day of sorrow.

Farouq Omar Muhei, his wife and children had been presumed dead, buried under the debris of Tuesday’s bombings. So neighbors were stunned when Mr. Muhei and his 14-year-old son, Omar, showed up Wednesday on their wrecked street and freed the dog.

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