Bombings kill 9 in Iraq

Deputy prime minister wounded in prayer room during an attack

March 24, 2007|By Christian Berthelsen and Ned Parker | Christian Berthelsen and Ned Parker,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Bombings wounded one of Iraq's two deputy prime ministers in his prayer room yesterday and killed nine people, the latest attack on Sunni Arabs perceived as collaborators because of their involvement with the U.S.-backed government.

Salam al-Zubaie, a member of the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, was injured when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt in a small mosque at the politician's home during noon prayers. A car bomb went off outside at the same time.

The attack wounded 14 other people. Among those killed were al-Zubaie's brother and six of his guards.

In an interview on Al-Iraqiya news, Brig. Gen. Qassim Mossawi said the attack had apparently come from within the official's own security detail. "There was a clear security violation within the guards of the deputy prime minister," he said.

Last year, two brothers and a sister of Tariq al-Hashimi, one of the nation's two vice presidents, were killed. Al-Hashimi, a Sunni, has repeatedly called for the United States to maintain its presence in Iraq in the hopes of restoring peace. And last fall, the Sunni speaker of parliament, Mahmoud Mashadani, narrowly survived a car-bomb attack on his convoy.

"This is part of the, if you like to call it, Sunni-Sunni conflict," said Wamid Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University. "On the one hand, you find the [Sunni] party is getting more and more involved in the political procedure and the political operation, and the resistance is finding itself very much apart from that."

Elsewhere, the U.S. military announced that two American soldiers had died a day earlier. A Marine was killed in combat operations in Anbar province, while an Army soldier was slain by a roadside bomb during a clearing operation in west Baghdad. A car bomb exploded in a used car lot in north Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 19, and police discovered the bodies of 28 men shot to death on the streets of Baghdad.

Al-Zubaie was taken to a hospital staffed with U.S. military medical personnel in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, not far from his compound. The extent of his injuries was unknown. Supporters said his wounds were superficial, but others who visited him said they were more serious. Ala Maki, a member of al-Zubaie's Tawafiq bloc, who had spoken to one of his doctors, said he was still under anesthesia last night but was expected to recover and return to his job.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited al-Zubaie in the hospital yesterday afternoon and spoke with him, but an aide to al-Maliki declined to disclose details of the conversation. A statement from his office said al-Zubaie's condition was stable and he did not need to be transferred overseas for more intensive medical care.

Al-Zubaie was a one-time agriculture professor at Baghdad University who got involved in Iraq's politics through his work in academics. Saleem Jubouri, a fellow member of his bloc, said al-Zubaie developed a reputation for integrity and became popular within the group, which ultimately led them to nominate him to serve in the deputy prime minister's slot.

Some members of Tawafiq were once part of the insurgency movement opposing the U.S. presence in Iraq, but the bloc decided in late 2005 that it would participate in the political process. That, members say, has opened them to attacks from former confederates who now view them as traitors.

"From the beginning, we were against terrorism, but we recognized a national resistance in Iraq and understood their motivation, and decided to give them a chance to be part of the political process through being part of reconciliation," said Iyad Samarrai, the general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a part of the Tawafiq bloc. Now, he said, members are being targeted by al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups.

Christian Berthelsen and Ned Parker write for the Los Angeles Times.

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