Paliament suicide bomber 'was Sunni MP's bodyguard'
04/12/2007 - 6:23:04 PM
A suspected suicide bomber blew himself up in the
Iraqi parliament cafeteria in an assault in the heart
of the heavily fortified, US-protected Green Zone
today, killing at least eight people including three
politicians, the American military said.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said eight people were
killed in the attack.
Iraqi officials said the bomber struck the cafeteria
while several politicians were eating lunch.
State television said at least 30 people were wounded.
Security officials at parliament, who spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not
authorised to release the information, said they
believed the suicide bomber was a bodyguard of a Sunni
member of parliament who was not among the dead.
They would not name the member of parliament.
The officials also said two satchel bombs were found
inside the building near the dining hall.
A US military bomb squad was called and took the
explosives away and detonated them without incident.
The blast came hours after a suicide truck bomb
exploded on a major bridge in Baghdad, collapsing the
steel structure and sending cars tumbling into the
Tigris River, police and witnesses said. At least 10
people were killed.
After the parliament blast, security guards sealed the
building and no one - including politicians was
allowed to enter or leave.
Caldwell said witness accounts indicated a suicide
We dont know at this point who it was. We do know in
the past that suicide vests have been used
predominantly by al-Qaida, he said.
The bombing came amid the two-month-old security
crackdown in Baghdad, which has sought to restore
stability in the capital so that the government of
Iraq can take key political steps by June 30 or face a
possible withdrawal of American support.
One of the dead politicians was Mohammed Awad, a
member of the Sunni National Dialogue Front, said
Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the party, which holds
11 seats in Iraqs legislature. A female Sunni
lawmaker from the same list was wounded, he said.
Another legislator killed was Taha al-Liheibi, of the
Sunni Accordance Front that holds 44 seats in
parliament, according to Mohammed Abu Bakr, who heads
the legislatures media department.
Abu Bakr said he saw a suicide bombers body amid a
ghastly scene at the restaurant.
I saw two legs in the middle of the cafeteria and
none of those killed or wounded lost their legs
which means they must be the legs of the suicide
attacker, he said.
Several other politicians said they too saw the
disembodied legs, believed to be those of the bomber.
Earlier in the day, security officials used dogs to
check people entering the building in a rare
precaution apparently concerned that an attack might
But a security scanner that checks pedestrians at the
entrance to the Green Zone near the parliament
building was not working on Thursday, Abu Bakr said.
People were searched only by hand and had to pass
through metal detectors, he said.
The brazen bombing was the clearest evidence yet that
militants can penetrate even the most secure
locations. Masses of US and Iraqi soldiers are on the
streets in the ninth week of a security crackdown in
the capital and security measures inside the Green
Zone have been significantly hardened.
The US military reported April 1 that two suicide
vests were found in the heavily fortified region that
also houses the US Embassy and offices of the Iraqi
government. A militant rocket attack last month killed
two Americans, a soldier and a contractor.
A few days earlier, a rocket landed within 100 yards
of a building where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
was holding a news conference. No one was hurt.
Khalaf al-Ilyan, one of the three leaders of the Iraqi
Accordance Front, which holds 44 seats, said the
attack was aimed at everyone all parties our
parliament in general being a symbol and a
representative of all segments of Iraqi society.
Al-Ilyan, who is in Jordan recovering from knee
surgery, said the blast also underlines the failure
of the governments security plan.
The plan is 100% a failure. Its a complete flop. The
explosion means that instability and lack of security
has reached the Green Zone, which the government
boasts is heavily fortified, he said.
In Washington, the White House condemned the bombing.
This attack demonstrates that the terrorists and
extremists will go to great lengths to undermine the
Iraqi government, a government that is working to
bring peace and stability for the people of Iraq, as
opposed to the death and destruction that the
terrorists offer, said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman
for the National Security Council. The United States
and Iraq cannot and will not let them succeed.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican
presidential candidate John McCain said the attack
showed terrorists were determined to destroy the Iraqi
peoples dreams of democracy but did not mean the
security operation had failed.
We know that there is a security problem in Baghdad,
Rice told reporters at the State Department where she
met with McCain. This is still early in the process
and I dont think anyone expected that there wouldnt
be counter-efforts by terrorists to undermine the
McCain said the bombing could not take away from
initial, small successes from the surge.
It makes all of us sad for these public servants who
have been injured or killed but I dont think you can
change the larger picture (that) we are achieving some
small successes, he said.
Mukhlis al-Zamili of the Shiite Fadhila party said six
of those wounded were members of the bloc run by
radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Hadi al-Amiri, head of the parliaments security and
defense committee, said the explosion shook the
building just after legislators ended their main
meeting, and broke into smaller committees.
A few brothers (fellow politicians) happened to be in
the cafeteria at the time of the explosion, al-Amiri
told Al-Arabiya television. But had they been able to
place this bomb inside the meeting hall, it would have
been a catastrophe.
A television camera and videotape belonging to a
Western TV crew was confiscated by security guards
moments after the attack.
Attacks in the Green Zone are rare.
The worst inside the enclave occurred on October 14,
2004, when insurgents detonated explosives at a market
and a popular cafe, killing six people. That was the
first bombing in the sprawling region.
On November 25, 2004, a mortar attack inside the zone
killed four employees of a British security firm and
wounded at least 12.
On January 29, 2005, insurgents hit the US Embassy
compound with a rocket, killing two Americans a
civilian and a Navy sailor on the eve of landmark
elections. Four other Americans were wounded.
In addition to killing 10 people, Thursdays bombing
of the al-Sarafiya bridge wounded 26, hospital
officials said. As many as 20 other people were feared
missing in cars that plummeted off the span.
Waves lapped against twisted girders as patrol boats
searched for survivors and US helicopters flew
overhead. Scuba divers donned flippers and waded in
from the riverbanks.
Farhan al-Sudani, a 34-year-old Shiite businessman who
lives near the bridge, said the blast woke him at
A huge explosion shook our house and I thought it
would demolish our house. Me and my wife jumped
immediately from our bed, grabbed our three kids and
took them outside, he said.
The al-Sarafiya bridge connected two northern Baghdad
neighbourhoods - Waziriyah, a mostly Sunni enclave,
and Utafiyah, a Shiite area.
Police blamed the attack on a suicide truck bomber,
but AP Television News video showed the bridge broken
in two places perhaps the result of two blasts.
Cement pilings that support the steel structure were
left crumbling. At the base of one lay a charred
vehicle engine, believed to be that of the truck bomb.
We were astonished more when we saw the extent of
damage, said Ahmed Abdul-Karim, 45, who also lives
near the bridge. I was standing in my garden and I
saw the smoke and flying debris.
The al-Sarafiya bridge is believed to be at least 75
years old, built by the British in the early part of
the 20th century.
The al-Sarafiya bridge has a duplicate in Fallujah
that was built later and made infamous in March 2004
when angry mobs hung the charred bodies of US
contractors from its girders.
Before the al-Sarafiya bridge was destroyed, nine
spans across the Tigris linked western and eastern
The river now serves as a de facto dividing line
between the mostly Shiite east and the largely Sunni
west of the city, a reality of more than a year of
sectarian fighting that has forced Sunnis to flee
neighbourhoods where they were a minority and likewise
There have been unconfirmed reports for months that
Sunni insurgents and al Qaida in Iraq were planning a
campaign to blow up the citys bridges. US military
headquarters near the Baghdad airport and the Green
Zone, site of the US Embassy and Iraqi parliament and
government, are both on the west side of the river.
Also today, the US military said its troops killed two
suspected insurgents and captured 17 in raids across