Iraq bombings: Gen. Odierno blames a changing Al Qaeda
On the second consecutive day of major suicide bombings in Iraq, top US Gen. Raymond Odierno says Al Qaeda in Iraq had changed focus in the past six months.
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Basim Mohammad Ismail, a Ministry of Interior employee, says he was having breakfast with his family when the blast tore through his apartment.Skip to next paragraph
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“It was just one second but it caused so much destruction and pain,” he says, picking up a piece of metal that came flying through their window. “My 8-year-old daughter is in hospital – her beautiful face is full of glass splinters – she might lose her eyesight.” He said he believed everyone in the government knew the explosives detection devices were ineffective and bought them anyway to make money from them.
“The security agencies are a failure. The explosives detectors are a failure,” says Raed Issam, whose niece and nephew were also injured by flying glass. “[The Iraqi government] knows that but they are too busy stealing. They don’t care what happens to us, as long as they are safe in their secure Green Zone.”
Odierno: Bombs may be made in 'Baghdad belt'
On Monday, car bombs struck at three high-profile hotels in central Baghdad, one of them used by foreign journalists. Casualty estimates varied widely but at least 16 people appear to have been killed in the bombings, which extensively damaged the hotels and surrounding buildings.
Odierno said the explosives detonated on Monday were much less powerful than those seen in previous high-profile bombings, but at least one of the audacious attacks marked a change in tactics.
Gunmen outside the Hamra Hotel, popular with Western journalists, opened fire on the compound's security guards before the suicide truck bomb drove through the barrier and detonated.
“It’s the first time we’ve seen it executed this way,” Odierno told journalists. “As time goes on, their ability to impact becomes less and less, so they are trying to get the biggest outcome.”
While the US and Iraq had made great progress, they should not underestimate the difficulty of dealing with a sophisticated and constantly shifting organization, he said.
“This is a slog. This is not something that changes immediately overnight – it takes time to develop capacity, to develop investigative capacity, it takes time to develop the relationship between the judiciary and the Iraqi police regarding evidence,” he told a group of Western reporters.
Odierno said he believed most of the suicide car bombs were being assembled in rural areas outside Baghdad, where there was minimal Iraqi security presence, and driven into the city.
Those areas – known as the Baghdad belt – were the focus of the US military surge three years ago when thousands of American troops were placed in the area to prevent the flow of ammunition and fighters into the capital. In many of the areas there were not enough effective Iraqi security forces to replace them when the Americans pulled out.
---- Sahar Issa contributed to this report.