The Iraqi Interior Ministry announced on Saturday (November 10th) that a crisis team was formed to pursue gunmen involved in recent attacks on several children's schools and parks in various Iraqi cities.
Ministry spokesperson Col. Saad Maan told Mawtani that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the creation of the crisis team, which was tasked with analysing the recent attacks and finding their perpetrators as swiftly as possible.
In the past two weeks, security forces arrested "17 al-Qaeda gunmen who confessed they targeted areas where civilians, including children, gather, such as a children's hospital, a school, an amusement park and a soccer field", he said.
According to Maan, "there are several reasons for the recent rise in the number of terrorist attacks directly targeting children, the most important of which is a floundering al-Qaeda and its members' inclination to launch attacks that are not dangerous for them and in unexpected areas, such as children's schools."
By launching such attacks, al-Qaeda is also trying to terrorise citizens and the children's parents, re-instilling fear in them to prevent them from co-operating with Iraqi security forces, he added. "Al-Qaeda's attacks on children are not new," Maan said.
"From [children] recruitment into the Birds of Paradise organisation, to using them to deliver explosives and messages, or using them to blackmail their parents or force those who work for security forces to surrender to them and be killed -- all of this is further evidence of the legitimacy of organisations killing and fighting [al-Qaeda members]."
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told Mawtani, "The enemy we are fighting has no mercy or compassion, for killing schoolchildren cannot be justified by any of their slogans."He said in September, "about 30 Iraqi children were killed and another 30 were wounded in seven bombings in Kirkuk, Baghdad, Anbar, Mosul and Salaheddine, with five of these attacks directly targeting children".
Aifan al-Essawi, secretary of the parliamentary defence and security committee, said the main reasons "al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups continue to target children" include the "growing skill of security forces in pursuing" these groups, and "al-Qaeda's failure to reach government and security facilities".
"So they resorted to targeting public marketplaces, children's schools, gardens and parks, and that is a sign of weakness," he said. On Thursday, the Fallujah police arrested an al-Qaeda member who confessed he had targeted a soccer field where four children were playing, according to al-Essawi.
Three of the children's fathers are policemen, and the fourth child's father works for the Sahwa forces, he added. "We believe these increasing [attacks] will end soon and swiftly through joint co-operation between security forces and Iraqi citizens," he said.
Dr. Waleed al-Karbalai, co-ordinator of a children's treatment programme at the Iraqi Health Ministry, said the government launched a programme titled "Humanitarian Airlift to Germany". "Through this programme, 22 children wounded in terrorist attacks were taken to Germany at the [Iraqi] state's expense, including six who needed to be fitted for prosthetics," he said.
About 200 other children will also be sent to German hospitals by the end of the year to receive treatment for injuries suffered in such attacks, he added.
By Mohammad al-Qaisi in Baghdad