Baghdad bombing kills at least 10

Blast hits recruiting center as assembly struggles to complete new government

April 20, 2005|By Patrick J. McDonnell | Patrick J. McDonnell,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq - At least 10 people were killed yesterday in a suicide car bombing in the capital as resurgent violence and sectarian tensions raised the stakes for lawmakers struggling to finalize a government 11 weeks after landmark elections.

Yesterday's attack, like many before it, targeted a recruiting center for the Iraqi army, whose growing forces are destined to replace U.S. troops one day, according to the Bush administration blueprint. Iraqi forces have borne the brunt of attacks from insurgents who denounce them as collaborators.

Five Iraqi soldiers and five recruits were killed yesterday, said Iraqi army Sgt. Ali Khadem, who spoke at the chaotic and bloody scene in the capital's northwest Adhamiya neighborhood. At least 29 were injured.

Also yesterday, news agencies reported, insurgents opened fire on Iraqi soldiers in the town of Khaldiya, 75 miles west of Baghdad, killing at least four people and wounding seven. And in the capital, officials said, masked men shot and killed Professor Fuad Ibrahim Mohammed Bayati as he left home for the University of Baghdad, the latest in a series of assassinations of academics and professionals in an apparent attempt to foment instability.

The stream of attacks targeting recruiting centers has prompted authorities to change the times and venues of recruiting sessions. But guerrillas with ample arms and operational intelligence have continued to find their targets.

Despite the continued targeting of recruits, aspiring army men have continued to show up in droves. Many are poor Shiite Muslims determined to demonstrate support for a new government likely to be run by the long-repressed Shiite majority. Rival Sunni Arabs, who lost their long-dominant position with the U.S-led invasion two years ago, form the backbone of the insurgency.

"I am not joining the army for the money," said Edward Hussam, 25, a recruit who survived yesterday's bombing. "I am doing it to fight terrorism. These infidels are committing crimes against humanity and someone must stop them."

Across town from the bombing, Iraq's transitional National Assembly again failed to name a new government. But outraged lawmakers demanded an apology from U.S. authorities for the alleged mistreatment of a Shiite politician who said he was manhandled and handcuffed at a checkpoint. He is the latest prominent Iraqi to allege abuse at the hands of U.S. personnel.

"American occupation forces say they have come to Iraq for the sake of liberating us, but it seems that is the opposite of what is happening," the lawmaker, Fattah al-Sheik, said.

Al-Sheik is head of a small party linked to Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-U.S. Shiite cleric.

Other lawmakers vented their rage at U.S. authorities and at least one vowed to work to take back the Green Zone, the heavily fortified compound in central Baghdad where the U.S. Embassy and many Western and Iraqi offices are situated. The presence of a fenced-off zone in the middle of the capital has long rankled many Iraqis.

U.S. officials pledged to look into the alleged mistreatment of the lawmaker.

"We regret this incident occurred and are conducting a thorough investigation," said Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst in a statement from the U.S. command.

The assembly again failed to complete the new transitional government - almost three months after the national elections of Jan. 30.

Many key Cabinet and other posts remain vacant amid bickering about how to split the spoils among parties representing Iraqi's varied religious and ethnic groups. The assembly has yet to begin its central task - writing a new constitution. The document, once completed, is scheduled to be voted on by Iraqis in mid-October.

As delays mount, however, there are signs that the leadership void might be worsening ethnic and religious tensions. Shiite lawmakers have been using their newfound pulpit to denounce a purported mass kidnapping of Shiites south of Baghdad. But Sunni Arab representatives have called the reports exaggerated and a pretext to heighten repression.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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