Bomber Targets Iraq Justice Minister
5 Die in Convoy Attack; U.S. Soldier, 6 Iraqis Killed in Other Violence
By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page A18
BAGHDAD, July 17 -- A suicide bomber rammed his car into a convoy carrying the Iraqi justice minister to work Saturday in Baghdad. The official was not hurt, but two of his bodyguards and three other people were killed. A U.S. soldier and at least six other Iraqis were also killed in violence throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the new U.S. ambassador, John D. Negroponte, disputed suggestions that a proposed amnesty for Iraqis who have opposed the U.S. occupation could include those who have killed U.S. soldiers. Negroponte said he supported the idea of an amnesty but was "not aware there is any provision for any amnesty for those who killed U.S. soldiers."
"There may have been at one point some language that was ambiguous and led to the interpretation that somehow people would be given amnesty who assaulted U.S. troops," he said. "My understanding is that ambiguity is no longer there."
Iraqi officials had expressed concern that a wave of violence might occur Saturday, the anniversary of a coup that brought the Baath Party to power in 1968. Deposed president Saddam Hussein, who was vice president at the time, formally became president in 1979.
The attack against the justice minister, Malik Douhan Hasan, came shortly after he left his house in a Baghdad suburb. According to witnesses, a car raced into the convoy of vehicles accompanying Hasan, striking a sport utility vehicle and killing the two bodyguards. It was unclear whether the other people who were killed were part of the convoy or were bystanders. The car used in the attack was torn into pieces and thrown about 30 yards. The explosion shattered windows in many houses surrounding the scene.
Issam Majid, a government employee, said he was driving to work in a car near the convoy when the bomb exploded. "It was like some heavy, massive thing falling on me. Then I realized I was wounded and bleeding," said Majid, who sustained a minor wound to his left arm.
The U.S. soldier who was killed Saturday died when a roadside bomb exploded under a military convoy as it traveled near the town of Baiji, north of Baghdad. Another soldier was wounded in that attack.
In Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad, the chief of police was slain in an ambush. In Samarra, north of the capital, gunmen killed the local head of the Iraqi National Party and his father, according to local reports.
In Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, attackers hit the Iraqi National Guard headquarters, killing two people and wounding 47, hospital officials told the Associated Press.
A suicide attack earlier Saturday in Baghdad killed at least one guard at a checkpoint when the bomber detonated explosives as he was being questioned. More than a dozen people were wounded in that attack.
Also Saturday, hostage-takers holding an Egyptian man agreed to release him after his company pledged to stop working in Iraq, the firm's owner said. The Associated Press reported that the owner, Faisal Naheet, told the al-Jazeera satellite television network that Alsayeid Mohammed Alsayeid Algarabawi, a driver for the firm, would be released Sunday.
The Philippine government continued withdrawing members of its small contingent from Iraq in an apparent effort to save the life of another hostage, Angelo de la Cruz, who was captured this month.
In Manila, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye wrote in a newspaper column that it could take some time to secure de la Cruz's release, the Reuters news agency reported. "We admire Angelo for his sacrifice and courage and we all want him home but it may take time," he said. "Right now, we must not do anything that can put Angelo's life in danger. Those terrorists have killed before and they can kill again."
The United States has criticized the Philippine government for pulling out its 51-member contingent.
Special correspondent Khalid Saffar contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company