August 22, 2009 / 3:14 PM / 10 years ago

Maliki assures Iraq its forces will defeat terror

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is joined by U.S. President Barack Obama as they hold a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, July 22, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday assured the country in the aftermath of the deadliest bombings this year that its security forces would defeat terrorism despite “breaches here and there.”

In his first public address since massive truck bombs in Baghdad killed at least 95 people on Wednesday, mainly in the foreign and finance ministries, Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim leader said the perpetrators of the attacks had been captured.

He also vowed to weed out from the police and army all those loyal to factions and political parties rather than the country.

“I want to tell the Iraqi people we are still in an open war against them (the terrorists),” Maliki said on state television channel Iraqiya. “I reassure the Iraqi people that the security forces can still keep up the battle and achieve victory despite breaches here and there.”

The bomb blasts on Wednesday outside what should have been among Iraq’s most heavily protected targets dealt a severe blow to Maliki’s efforts to take credit ahead of a national election next year for a steep fall in violence in the past 18 months.

It also shook public confidence in the Iraqi police and soldiers, who took over responsibility for security in cities at the end of June when U.S. troops pulled out of urban centers.

The U.S. pullback to rural bases was hailed by Maliki as a celebration of Iraqi sovereignty more than six years after the U.S. invasion.

Maliki blamed Wednesday’s bombings on Sunni Islamist extremists — usually a reference to al Qaeda — and former members of toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party.

He repeated an announcement from security officials that the culprits behind the bombings had been caught and were being questioned, and also reiterated accusations that other countries in the region were fomenting violence in Iraq.

Reporting by Khalid al-Ansary and Muhanad Mohammed; Writing by Michael Christie; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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