After warning, mourners killed in Fallujah

Suicide bomber kills 30 at funeral

premier offers Cabinet slate

May 25, 2007|By Garrett Therolf | Garrett Therolf,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- The friends and family of slain Fallujah tribal leader Alawi Ahmed Zuwaid decided to ignore a threatening leaflet and honor him yesterday with a public funeral. The mourners were hit with the most deadly bombing of the day in Iraq.

As the funeral procession moved through Fallujah, a suicide car bomber attacked the mourners, killing 30 people and injuring 34, authorities said. They were among at least 67 Iraqis killed or found dead yesterday.

The U.S. military said two soldiers were killed Wednesday in Anbar province during combat operations.

Al-Qaida in Iraq apparently had zeroed in on Zuwaid, 60, a restaurant owner, for cooperating with U.S. forces in reconstruction projects, friends said. He had also helped to form an alliance among other leaders against al-Qaida.

Militants shot him Wednesday as he arrived at his house from prayers, police said. His 25-year- old son was killed by militants a month ago as he walked down the street.

The elder Zuwaid had received a letter last week ordering him to stop working as a contractor on reconstruction projects.

Hours after he was killed, another leaflet was left for his family, ordering them to have a small, private funeral.

Yesterday, the suicide bomber positioned himself near Zuwaid's home and waited until 150 mourners drew close.

Saad Mjbil, a witness, said the blast tore the victims to pieces, making it difficult to count or identify the dead.

Another witness, Abdul Rahman Mohammed, 40, blamed foreign Islamists. "Such crimes are not done by Iraqis," he said.

Fallujah, in Iraq's western Anbar province, has seen a steady rate of killings in recent days, among them an Iraqi intelligence officer, soldiers, police officers and pilots.

"They are al-Qaida," said Abdullah Khalaf, another Zuwaid mourner. "They won't leave us alone, killing students, educators, degree holders. They are forcing female students and government employees to wear veils. We can't do anything about it."

Elsewhere, U.S. and Iraqi forces stepped up their search for the two remaining missing soldiers south of Baghdad, while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a slate of Cabinet ministers to replace those pulled out by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

"A significant effort continues to be under way to find [the missing soldiers]," said Army Lt. Col. Randy Martin.

The nearly two-week search, Martin said, involved 4,000 American soldiers and 2,000 Iraqi troops, who have questioned about 1,100 people, dropped 320,000 leaflets and covered 260 square miles.

In the process, the joint forces discovered caches of weapons used by snipers and bombers, and killed a team of snipers who attacked them, Martin said.

The body of Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr. of Torrance, Calif., was found Wednesday floating down the Euphrates River 12 miles south of the place where he and two other soldiers were captured by insurgents nearly two weeks ago. Still missing are Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich.

Al-Maliki's slate of new Cabinet members was not received well, and appeared unlikely to quell sectarian tensions.

The Cabinet members had resigned April 16, at al-Sadr's request, in a dispute over al-Maliki's refusal to set a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal.

Waleed Kremawi, an official in al-Sadr's political office, said al-Maliki's slate was unacceptable and that some had allegations of corruption in their past. He declined to provide details, and al-Maliki insisted that his nominees had clean records.

Garrett Therolf writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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