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Middle East
Iraqi PM says he was target of Baghdad bomb
Nouri al-Maliki says Monday's car bomb blast outside parliament, inside capital's Green Zone, was assassination attempt.
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2011 22:38



Iraq's prime minister has said an explosion inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone earlier this week was an assassination attempt.

"The preliminary intelligence information says that the car was due to enter parliament and stay there and not to explode. It was supposed to explode on the day I entered parliament"

- Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's PM

Nouri al-Maliki said that initial intelligence on the bomb that exploded opposite the parliament buildings on Monday suggested he was the target.

However, he denied that the explosion signalled a deterioration in security in the area, which is meant to be one of the most secure in Iraq.

"The preliminary intelligence information says that the car was due to enter parliament and stay there and not to explode. It was supposed to explode on the day I entered parliament," he told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday.

"I don't think that this says something about the security situation in the country," the prime minister said.

"Such breaches can happen in any country or anywhere. It was a very simple operation. I cannot see in this operation any indication of a security deterioration in Iraq."

Maliki said Iraqi security forces were still looking for at least four people believed to have played a role in the plot.

'Suicide bomber'

Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, the Baghdad military spokesperson, confirmed that Maliki was the target.

He said the bomber was driving a black, four-wheel drive vehicle carrying 20kg of explosives and tried to join a convoy of other vehicles going into the parliament grounds in the heavily protected district housing government offices and embassies.

"Intelligence shows the suicide bomber aimed to enter the building of the parliament and to stay in one of the parking
lots until the prime minister ... arrived at the parliament," he said.

He said guards prevented the driver from passing a checkpoint leading into the parliament compound because he did not have proper authorisation.

With US troops due to leave by year-end, US businesses looking to invest in Iraq are concerned about safety [Al Jazeera]

The driver then drove to the parking lot just opposite the parliament entrance where many legislators and their staff park, and the vehicle exploded seconds later.

Two parliamentary guards were killed in the blast, which officials initially said was caused by a mortar round. Two other people, including the parliamentary speaker, were injured.  

Aidan Helmi, a media adviser to Osama al-Nujaifi, the parliament speaker who was wounded in the blast, called the attack a botched "assassination attempt" on Nujaifi.

Maliki said he had previously told Nujaifi that there might be an attempt to kill one of them at the parliament and advised him to exercise caution.

Ali Al Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that the bombing was an attack on the whole political process.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the intent of the bomber, he said.

"It is under investigation and needs to be confirmed," he said.

Security concerns

Moussawi said the information was based on confessions from members of what he called a "terrorist group".

They revealed that the bomb was supposed to go off when Maliki visited the parliament during an upcoming session, he said.

"Intelligence shows the suicide bomber aimed to enter the building of the parliament and to stay in one of the parking
lots until the prime minister ... arrived
"

- Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, Baghdad military spokesman

Iraq's security spokesman, Qassim Atta, said the driver was supposed to bring the car inside the parliament's parking area and leave it there for four days until Maliki attended a session, but blew himself up after he failed to bring the car inside the car park.

He said details of the alleged plot to kill the prime minister had been revealed after arrests prompted by tracing the vehicle number and a SIM card from a telephone.

That a bomb was successfully brought into what is supposed to be the most heavily fortified area in the country raises serious doubts about the abilities of Iraq's security forces as US troops prepare to leave Iraq.

Guards check for bombs or use dogs to search for explosives as cars enter the area.

The remaining 12,000 US troops are due to leave in a few weeks, nearly nine years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, the former president.

Violence has declined in Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 187 people were killed in November, according to official figures released on Thursday.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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