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Iraqi Colonel Who Bridged Sectarian Divide Is Killed

Capt. Muthana Ahmad, a spokesman for the provincial police force there, said the bomb may have been attached to a window of Mamuri's office. Others, including Abdul Kareem al-Kinani, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, said investigators believed the wreckage indicated that the bomb had been placed under his desk.

"This is correct," Ahmad said, asked whether authorities suspected that one or more of the commando leader's aides collaborated in the killing. "As you may know, infiltration has taken place" in Iraq's security forces.

Bolani told reporters that he had ordered an investigation.

Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, is markedly more peaceful than the towns on the capital's southern outskirts that serve as strongholds for Sunni insurgents. Shiite schoolchildren today sing the Sunni towns' names, such as Latifiyah, in chilling songs equating them with hell.

On the other side of Hilla is the almost entirely Shiite south, free of the brunt of Sunni insurgent attacks but the scene of growing clashes between militias and security forces loyal to rival Shiite religious parties.

Hilla residents said Friday that local forces of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr especially disliked Mamuri, more than ever after the Scorpions raided a Sadr office in mid-September. Sadr's militia, known as the Mahdi Army, is one of the most powerful forces in Iraq.

Shiite politicians and officials from the Shiite-run Interior Ministry frequently threatened to have Mamuri replaced. Several attempts were made on his life, including a roadside bomb attack on his convoy in late April that was blamed on the Mahdi Army.

Because of its makeup and the fact that it fought al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni-led insurgent groups, Hilla SWAT swiftly earned a reputation as a feared anti-Sunni force. It was heavily involved in the operations around Yusufiyah in April and May that led to the capture of several top al-Qaeda lieutenants and, the military later said, the eventual killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But the unit cracked down as fiercely on Shiite militias, which Mamuri blamed this spring for what by then amounted to at least a half-dozen attempts to assassinate him. He barred militia members from serving in his brigade, despite intense political pressure from the provincial governor, who Mamuri said repeatedly pressured him to accept more militia members into his ranks.

"The militias consider us the only thing preventing them from completely taking over the south," Mamuri said in the spring interview. "They are bad for the country."

Mamuri rejected the idea of giving up in the face of the assassination attempts. "You can get killed in Iraq even if you sit all day in your house," he said. "What should I do, sit around and wait to die, or try to stop the people who are killing?"

Finer reported from New Haven, Conn. Special correspondents Naseer Nouri in Baghdad and Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.

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