New York Times
November 22, 2006
By Edward Wong
BAGHDAD, Nov. 21 ó A bomb exploded in an armored car among those belonging to the speaker of Parliament, wounding the American security guard who was driving it out of a parking area in the government Green Zone and disrupting a meeting of lawmakers nearby, a parliamentary aide said.
Though the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, was not in the vehicle and was unscathed, the assassination attempt was one of the most serious breaches of security yet within the Green Zone, the heavily fortified government district on the west bank of the Tigris River.
The bomb, which exploded in midafternoon, was planted inside an armored car that resembled the one the speaker uses and was usually used as a decoy car in his convoy, said the parliamentary aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the attack.
Only part of the bomb exploded, the aide said. A police official said investigators believe that the bomb was planted inside the Green Zone and detonated by cellphone.
Mr. Mashhadani, a hard-line Sunni Arab nationalist reviled by many Shiites, was attending a Parliament meeting inside the Green Zone convention center at the time of the explosion. He and other legislators were forced to stay inside for hours afterward while the American military secured the area.
In the summer, senior Shiite and Kurdish leaders, backed by some American officials, called for his ouster because of inflammatory comments he had made about various groups in Iraq and about the American presence.
The most serious breach of security inside the Green Zone occurred in October 2004, when insurgents set off two bombs in crowded areas that killed at least five people, including three Americans. Individuals have also been attacked there: at least one foreign jogger was reportedly stabbed, and another intentionally hit by a vehicle.
While Parliament members stewed inside the convention center, a senior Kurdish legislator said in a telephone interview that the president, Jalal Talabani, had accepted an invitation from the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, to meet in Damascus. Such a meeting would be the highest-level diplomatic discussion between the two countries in decades, and would seal a reconciliation that took place this week with the visit of the Syrian foreign minister here.
No date has been set for Mr. Talabaniís visit, said the legislator, Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Kurdistan Alliance. The invitation was delivered to Mr. Talabani by the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, who came to Iraq to re-establish diplomatic ties that were severed in 1982, after Syria sided with Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.
Mr. Talabani is scheduled to visit Iran this weekend, months after Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki made his first trip there. Mr. Othman said there were rumors that the Iranian government had also invited Mr. Assad to the meeting, but there was no definite sign that any senior Syrian officials would attend.
Meanwhile, the White House announced that President Bush would meet with Mr. Maliki in Jordan next week to discuss security in Iraq.
Early Tuesday, American and Iraqi forces raided the Shiite district of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad and detained a man the American military identified as the leader of a kidnapping ring in connection with the abduction last month of an American soldier, Specialist Ahmed al-Taie. Soldiers detained six other Iraqis.
The raid sparked a battle that involved fire from American aircraft. A Shiite official in the district, Sheik Abdul Zahra al-Suaidi, said in a telephone interview that five civilians had been killed in the fighting, including a woman and a child, and 15 others were wounded.
A spokeswoman for the American military, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, said in an e-mail message that ďthere may have been civilian casualties.Ē
Across Baghdad, at least 29 bodies were discovered Tuesday, an Interior Ministry official said. In Diyala Province, at least 13 people were killed in scattered violence. Qais Mizher contributed reporting.