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Iraqi officials seek review of security forces

BAGHDAD — Senior Iraqi officials and lawmakers recommended a review of security leadership, better coordination on intelligence and firmer treatment of detainees Friday as anger mounted over truck bombings against key government institutions that killed nearly 100 people.

Lawmakers also called for an emergency session of parliament next week to address the security concerns, the deputy parliament speaker said.

Facing widespread criticism, the Iraqi military announced on state television that it had arrested members of the insurgent cell responsible for Wednesday's attacks but gave no details about the suspects. Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the chief military spokesman in Baghdad, said only that both attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

A bombing that killed at least two people and wounded 20 Friday at a vegetable market in southern Baghdad exposed more lapses in security after the truck used in the attack passed through an Iraqi police checkpoint without being searched, police said.

Violence also continued near the volatile northern city of Mosul, where scores have been killed in bombings this month. A car bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol in a Sunni village near the Syrian border, killing four soldiers, according to police.

The police officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

The increase in violence has shaken public confidence in Iraq's security forces and caused some to wonder if the security transition from U.S. to Iraqi hands is happening too rapidly.

"We still need American support for a period of time until our abilities are complete in intelligence and technical issues," Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said.

U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities on June 30, and the recent bombings have raised fears about the readiness of Iraqi forces to provide security as the U.S. winds down combat operations.

Under an Iraqi-U.S. security pact that took effect Jan. 1, American forces will withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. President Barack Obama has ordered all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving up to 50,000 U.S. troops in training and advising roles. It also provides for the Americans to assist with intelligence, air power and other support.

The recommendation for a security review came out of a meeting of Iraq's political blocs and the ministers of defense, interior and national security as authorities moved swiftly to deal with the fallout from Wednesday's bombings.

The blasts primarily targeted government buildings, including the foreign and finance ministries, killing at least 101 people and wounding more than 500.

The attacks revealed "breaches and soft areas in our security system," deputy speaker Khalid al-Attiyah said. "This matter requires a comprehensive review of the system and finding the shortcomings in order to fix them."

He said recommendations included the creation of a joint committee of officials from the interior, defense and national security ministries to determine how to better investigate and prosecute insurgents.

The officials also called for holding any security leaders found to be negligent responsible, improving the coordination between intelligence agencies and tightening control over the release of detainees.

Thousands of detainees in U.S. custody have been freed or transferred into government custody as called for by the security pact. That has raised concern that many of the detainees — most of them Sunni men — have joined the insurgency upon their release.

"There has been unacceptable tolerance in the treatment and interrogation of the detainees under the pretext of respecting human rights, forgetting the rights of hundreds of innocent victims," al-Attiyah said.

He also called for amending an amnesty law that led to the release of prisoners not convicted of major crimes in a bid to foster reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites.

Several prominent followers of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and a rival Shiite group also have been released from U.S. custody in recent weeks. Amer al-Husseini, who ran an office for al-Sadr in Baghdad, confirmed he was freed on Thursday after more than a year in custody.

Meanwhile, new details emerged about Wednesday's attacks.

The truck bombs were water tankers loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer and artillery shells, said Maj. Gen. Jihad al-Jabouri, commander of an Iraqi bomb disposal unit.

The truck bomb that exploded near the Foreign Ministry held two tons of explosives, while the one that targeted the Finance Ministry held one and a half tons of explosives, he said. The bombs were likely built in Baghdad because it would be impossible to drive such a bomb from a long distance due to numerous checkpoints along the way, he added.

Shiite and Sunni clerics also criticized the Iraqi government during Friday prayers, calling for the prosecution of officials responsible for security lapses. Authorities announced the arrest of 11 Iraqi commanders accused of negligence earlier this week.

"If the government is unable to protect the people, it can get the help from the occupying troops who are the reason for this catastrophe in Iraq," Sunni Sheik Ahmed Hassan al-Taha said, using common rhetoric for U.S. forces.