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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Iraqi MPs press ministers on security after bombings

Mourners crying at a Baghdad hospital
Mourners gathered at hospitals to pick up dead relatives

Iraqi MPs have demanded that top ministers face questions in parliament over security, after 127 people were reported dead in a series of car bombs.

Tuesday's string of attacks were the third to strike government buildings or sites close to them since August.

The top US military officer said plans to withdraw US forces next year had not been altered, despite the attacks.

The bombings came two days after Iraq's parliament backed a new election law and set delayed polls for March.

Iraq's interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, said he was willing attend a special parliamentary session on security in the wake of the bombings, as long it was held publicly.

Reports said the defence minister and Prime Minister Nouri Maliki had also been asked to attend.

Casualties

On Wednesday the government questioned the media's death toll for the bombing.

News agencies quoted unnamed police and hospital officials who said the number of dead added up to 127 in the series of explosions.

But the government Baghdad Operation Centre said 77 people had been killed.

Also on Wednesday, another bomb, planted by the side of a road in north Baghdad, killed two people and injured seven.

Later, a sniper shot a policeman dead in the same district.

In Washington, Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that the bombings would not alter the US timetable to pull out troops following Iraqi elections next year.

"Certainly we're always looking at plans that take into consideration other outcomes, but right now we just don't see anything at this point in time that would require us to execute those," he said.

Angry

Tuesday's attacks, in which 448 people were wounded, struck a police patrol in the Dora district and Shourja Market, near the health ministry.

BAGHDAD BOMBING
Baghdad central district

Official buildings located near the other blasts also include the interior ministry, a university and the Institute of Fine Arts.

"MPs are angry, and the people are even more angry," Mahmud Othman, an independent Kurdish lawmaker, told AFP news agency.

"We want to know what is going on, what is the security plan? Have the government revised the plans since the explosions in August and October? What are the results of their investigations?

"Why do these explosions keep happening?" he asked.

Relatives of the dead waited outside Baghdad hospitals on Wednesday to pick up their remains.

Some mourners carried black-draped coffins through the streets to the burial grounds.

Officials say that attacks on state-run institutions are designed to undermine the Iraqi government, especially ahead of the parliamentary election.

The BBC's Natalia Antelava in Baghdad says the city is lined with blast walls and checkpoints and many people are asking how cars full of explosives continue to get through security measures.

Violence

Iraqi government figures have shown that violence generally has fallen over the past 18 months.

In October, however, co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 155 people and wounded hundreds in Baghdad.

Correspondents say that despite occasional massive bombings, insurgents stage frequent smaller-scale attacks against targets such as marketplaces, mosques or schools.

At least eight people - mostly children - died in a school bombing in Baghdad on Monday.

Parliamentary elections are now scheduled for 7 March, the government says.


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