BAGHDAD – The Iraqi government launched a massive security operation in Baghdad as Iraqis buried their dead Monday, a day after a pair of suicide attacks against government buildings killed dozens of people and exposed the fragility of Iraq’s fledgling institutions.
The death toll increased to 155, including about 30 children, some of whom were killed in a bus that was taking them to kindergarten, Interior Ministry officials said. Hundreds more people were injured by the blasts, officials said.
Police erected extra checkpoints around the downtown area housing the Justice Ministry and the provincial government headquarters where the bombings took place as the Defense Ministry promised an investigation into the “security breaches” that had allowed suicide bombers to penetrate one of the city’s most closely guarded areas.
The bombings came at a time of heightened political friction over the drafting of a new election law, which is urgently needed if national elections are to be held as planned in January. Election officials have said that if there is no law this week, the election may be delayed, which could in turn delay the expected withdrawal of U.S. troops.
U.S. military officials, however, said Monday the Pentagon remains committed to a drawdown plan that calls for reducing the current 117,000 troops in Iraq to 112,000 by the end of the year. The pace of drawdowns will then speed up substantially after the 2010 elections. Many of the troops deployed in Iraq may eventually be needed for Afghanistan, officials said.
“We have said from the beginning there would be good days and bad days. This weekend, we had a bad day,” said Marine Maj. Shawn Turner, a Pentagon spokesman. “But there is no indication we are shifting course in any way in regard to the drawdown.”