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Paliament suicide bomber 'was Sunni MP's bodyguard'

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.eecho.ie/news/bstory.asp?j=216128486&p=zy6yz9y9z&n=216129246 Paliament suicide bomber was Sunni MP s bodyguard 04/12/2007 - 6:23:04 PM A suspected
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      http://www.eecho.ie/news/bstory.asp?j=216128486&p=zy6yz9y9z&n=216129246

      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
      attack.

      “We don’t 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 Iraq’s 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 legislature’s media department.

      Abu Bakr said he saw a suicide bomber’s 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
      take place.

      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 government’s security plan.”

      “The plan is 100% a failure. It’s 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
      people’s 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 don’t think anyone expected that there wouldn’t
      be counter-efforts by terrorists to undermine the
      security presence.”

      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 don’t 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 parliament’s 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, Thursday’s 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
      dawn.

      “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
      Baghdad.

      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
      for Shiites.

      There have been unconfirmed reports for months that
      Sunni insurgents and al Qaida in Iraq were planning a
      campaign to blow up the city’s 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
      the country.
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