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Shattered in Baghdad blasts: Iraqi faith in security forces

From street sweepers to Foreign Ministry guards, Iraqis say their countrymen are falling short of their duty to protect them.

By Jane ArrafCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / August 19, 2009

Residents and security personnel gather around a crater after a bomb attack outside the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad, on Wednesday.

Bassim Shati/ Reuters

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Baghdad

At the site of the deadliest Baghdad bombing in 18 months, Iraqi faith that their security forces could protect them lay shattered in the wreckage.

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Outside the Foreign Ministry in central Baghdad, residents and security people gathered around tangled heaps of the frames of burned cars, some of them still smoldering into the evening.

"Iraqi security forces aren't strong enough – you see the police talking on their cellphones and listening to music," said Harath, a Foreign Ministry guard sitting under the dangling wires of a broken light fixture.

The ministry had been evacuated just after a truck packed with an estimated ton of explosives detonated, killing 59 people and wounding 150, but eight hours later Fatima Abdullah Sharif was still searching for her daughter Zainab, a ministry employee.

"Have you heard anything about her?" she asked each passerby in an anguished voice. "I've been looking for her since this morning."

Zainab, one of Fatima's three children, had returned temporarily to Baghdad two months ago from her job at the Iraqi consulate in Mexico. "I worked so hard to raise them," sobbed Fatima, explaining that her husband died 12 years ago.

Many of the dead and wounded were ministry officials. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zubari, who was not in Baghdad when the bombs hit, flew back from the Kurdish capital of Arbil and went to hospitals to visit the wounded after landing.

'I would prefer the US troops stay'

The ministry, surrounded by high concrete walls on a busy street, was near a checkpoint that had been dismantled earlier this year. As attacks in Baghdad have decreased, Iraqi authorities eager to show improvement in security and make the city livable again have started removing concrete walls and security checkpoints.

"We all know our security isn't perfect. We saw a big truck in the security camera," said Hawree Talabani, an employee in the IT department at the ministry. Blood seeped through a bandage wrapped around his head. "How can you drive a truck with a ton of explosives up here?"

Across the street, near the blackened branches of trees that caught fire in the explosions, policeman Hameed Eid explained why as he examined the tangled metal that was the remains of his car.

"They removed the checkpoint and we have no scanning devices for explosives," he said. "I would prefer to keep the concrete walls. I would prefer that the American troops stay but the Iraqis and the Iraqi political parties can't agree among themselves about it."

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