Iraq deputy PM in hospital after suicide attack

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie was wounded and undergoing surgery after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a hall where he was attending prayers on Friday, police and security officials said.

Six of Zobaie’s guards were killed in the second assassination attempt on a senior member of the United States-backed government in a month. One of Zobaie’s aides said the suicide bomber appeared to have been one of his own guards.

Brigadier General Qassim Moussawi, spokesperson for security in Baghdad, told Iraqiya state television Zobaie, a member of the main Sunni Arab political group, was wounded in various parts of his body in the suicide bomb attack.

”He is undergoing surgery now. His condition is not stable so far,” Moussawi said.

An aide to Zobaie, a member of the main Sunni Arab political bloc, said the deputy prime minister was hit by shrapnel in the abdomen and shoulder and that two of his brothers were killed in the attack.

US military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver said Zobaie was taken to the US military hospital but could give no information on his condition.

The high-profile attack came the day after a rocket landed yards from the prime minister’s home during a news conference with the United Nations secretary general.

Moussawi said Zobaie was the target of two coordinated attacks — the suicide bomber at a prayer hall in the compound of his residence and a car bomb at his home. He said six of Zobaie’s security guards were killed and 15 people wounded.

Zobaie, one of two deputy prime ministers, is a member of the Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab grouping in Iraq’s Shi’ite-led national unity government.

He is also a member of a well-known tribe from the Abu Ghraib area north-west of Baghdad. One of Zobaie’s aides said the suicide bomber appeared to have been one of his own guards. The aide said rival factions in the tribe were feuding, one side supporting al-Qaeda militants and the other loyal to the deputy prime minister and the government.

The western province of Anbar has recently seen a surge in violence between tribes who have come out against al-Qaeda and militants who have been taking revenge on them for doing so.

A police source said Zobaie’s brother was among the wounded, and another police source said one of those killed was an adviser of Zobaie named Mufid Abdel Zahraa.

Insurgents have frequently targeted leaders of the US-backed government. Last month Iraq’s Shi’ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi was wounded by shrapnel when a bomb killed six people inside the public works ministry.

Iraqi and US security forces are engaged in a major security crackdown in Baghdad aimed at stemming sectarian violence that threatens to pitch the country into civil war.

US commanders blame al-Qaeda and other Sunni Arab militants for most of the car bombs and suicide blasts.

Friday’s attack was not prevented by a vehicle curfew that is imposed every Friday in an attempt to stop car bombs on the Muslim holy day when crowds gather for prayer. – Reuters

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