By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005
BAGHDAD, May 5 -- Insurgents pressed their deadly campaign against Iraq's new government Thursday with attacks against the country's security forces, killing at least 28 people, about half of them policemen, and pushing the death toll in the past week to more than 210.
The violence included a suicide bombing at an army recruiting center in Baghdad, where the assailant moved among applicants before detonating his charges, killing 13 people. It was the same tactic used Wednesday in the northern city of Irbil, where a suicide bomber killed 59 men seeking jobs on the police force.
The attacks came as Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, who won parliamentary approval for his new cabinet a week ago, continued his search for a Sunni Arab to fill the sensitive post of defense minister, one of seven cabinet seats still vacant.
A spokesman for Jafari, Laith Kubba, said the Shiite Muslim leader was making progress and hoped to present names for the seven positions, four of which will go to Sunni Arabs, to parliament Sunday.
Ali Dabbagh, a senior official in Jafari's political coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, said an agreement had been reached to name Muhammed Bahr Uloum as oil minister. Another alliance member, Hussein Mousawi, said that Uloum was the leading candidate but that no decision had been made.
Defense minister has been the most difficult position to fill because Shiites and Kurds have opposed Sunni Arab nominees who were associated with the government of former president Saddam Hussein or his Baath Party.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, an ethnic Kurd, said the defense minister must be a Sunni Arab whose "reputation is not tainted in any atrocities."
In a telephone interview, Zebari also said he raised the issue of security when he met with the foreign ministers of Iraq's six neighbors last week in Istanbul. He said he urged them to improve policing of their borders to stop militants from joining the insurgency in Iraq.
"I confronted them with evidence, with names, with details of people who are wanted," Zebari said. The Iraqi and U.S. governments have said foreign fighters make up part of the insurgency and have accused Syria, in particular, of failing to stop militants from crossing the border.
The Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported Thursday that Syria was holding 137 Saudis on suspicion of trying to enter Iraq, according to the Reuters news agency. Zebari said he had not been informed about any such arrests, but added that "if this story is correct, it means that the message we delivered to them in Istanbul in a very clear, direct and unambiguous way may have had impact on them."
Thursday's insurgent violence began with a car bombing at 6:25 a.m. near a deputy interior minister's convoy in the Baghdad district of Ghazaliya. One of the official's bodyguards was killed, according to the Defense Ministry.
About the same time, gunmen in two cars opened fire on two police cars stationed at an intersection in the western part of the city, according to a policeman at the scene and a Defense Ministry spokesman. A hospital official said 10 policemen died in that attack.
An hour later, the suicide bomber attacked the army recruiting center in western Baghdad. And in Mosul, 220 miles north of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near a police patrol at 6:30 p.m., killing four officers and wounding five, according to police and hospital officials.
Special correspondents Bassam Sebti and Naseer Nouri in Baghdad, Shereen Jerjes in Irbil and Dlovan Brwari in Mosul contributed to this report.