CANBERRA, Australia – Iraq's leader called recent deadly bombings in Baghdad a "lapse" after a calm period, insisting Thursday that terrorists were no longer capable of disrupting efforts to bring security to the country.
Two suicide attacks this week that killed at least 63 people represent a jump in deadly violence near the Iraqi capital as President Barack Obama and allies including Australia implement plans to draw down troops and hand over to domestic security forces.
"There is no doubt that was a lapse to a good period of calm in Iraq," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters through an interpreter, in his first comments on the bombings.
But al-Maliki said "Al Qaeda, extremists and terrorists in Iraq have lost their capabilities of confronting and challenging the security forces in Iraq."
"What happened appears to be an attempt by them to prove that they still exist in Iraq," he said at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the Australian capital. "But we are intent on doing our best to secure the situation in the country."
Suicide bombers struck Sunday near the police academy in Baghdad, killing 30 people, and again Tuesday at an outdoor market in the suburb of Abu Ghraib, where 33 died.
No major attacks were reported in the Baghdad area Wednesday, but three Iraqi soldiers were killed and up to 14 people were wounded in two separate explosions in the northern city of Mosul, Al Qaeda's last urban stronghold in Iraq.
Al-Maliki earlier received an official welcome from Rudd and a military contingent in the national capital of Canberra, then took part in trade, aid and security talks with the prime minister and other top officials.