Updated at 3:59 p.m. EST, Dec. 10, 2009
Although only three Iraqis were killed and 11 more were wounded in the latest reports, there were other significant developments coming out of Iraq. Tuesday’s bloody bombings in Baghdad continued to dominate the news from various angles, but the closing of Camp Ashraf could soon take the attack’s place in the headlines. One U.S. soldier was also killed as U.S. Secretary Gates dropped in on Iraqi officials.
The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s massive bombing in Baghdad. The al-Qaeda related group seeks to create a caliphate in Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq. Although Iraqi officials believe the funding for the bombings came from Ba’athists in Syria, the U.S. is accusing Iran of helping militant groups in Iraq. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki later complained that Iraq’s own internal factions were contributing to the problems with security and elections. In the past, he has blamed Ba’athists for derailing peace, but some would accuse him of simply trying to undermine the campaigns of former Ba’athists and other Sunni politicians.
At the Syrian border, Iraqi and American forces say that most of the people arrested for illegally entering the country are smugglers, not Ba’athists. Also, work on a 149 km-long border trench was completed. Syria continues to deny any connection to bombings in Iraq.
The Prime Minister also announced that he would close Camp Ashraf and move the inhabitants to Baghdad later this week as a prelude to expelling them from the country. The group will then be housed at the secluded Nugrat al-Salman, a former prison used by Saddam to jail dissidents.
Camp Ashraf has been home to nearly 4,000 Mujahideen el-Khalq (MKO or MEK) fighters and their families for the last two decades. The group was expelled from Iran and given sanctuary by Saddam. They claim the Iraqi government has been abusing their rights, but the group fears returning to Iran where they could be tortured or executed. The MEK was under U.S. protection until the beginning of this year when their fate was handed over to the Iraqis. No third country has stepped forward to grant them asylum.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Baghdad during a tour of the war zones. The prime minister was unable to keep a meeting with the secretary, as Maliki was too busy defending himself in front of parliament. Meanwhile, Iraqi military officials are admitting they would like U.S. forces to remain in Iraq after the appointed withdrawal date.
In Baghdad, police liberated a kidnapped child, defused bombs and confiscated armaments.
Thirty-one suspects were arrested in Basra province.
One suspect was detained in Kirkuk.