Group Tied to Al-Qaeda in Iraq Claims Bombing; Toll Reduced

A bouquet of flowers fills the chair in parliament of Mohammed Awad, who was killed in Thursday's suicide bombing.
A bouquet of flowers fills the chair in parliament of Mohammed Awad, who was killed in Thursday's suicide bombing. (Pool Photos By Ceerwan Aziz)
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 14, 2007

BAGHDAD, April 13 -- A group linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq asserted responsibility Friday for the previous day's deadly suicide bombing inside the Green Zone, while the U.S. military said the blast killed fewer people than it originally reported.

In an Internet posting, the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni umbrella organization said to have been created by the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, said one of its followers detonated a belt of explosives in the Iraqi parliament's cafeteria. The group also warned of future attacks on the building.

"These disbelieving parliamentarians challenge the Lord of earth and heaven for his rule, and deserve nothing but death," the statement said, according to a translation by the Washington-based SITE Institute, which tracks terrorist organizations. "Oh men of Sunnah, you made Allah laugh as you saw these parliamentarian monkeys cry and scream at the terror of what they had seen after a brave knight entered upon them."

The Islamic State of Iraq and other Sunni insurgent groups have asserted responsibility for several recent attacks against both Sunnis and Shiites who have cooperated with Americans or the Iraqi government. The Islamic State of Iraq said it was also behind a suicide bombing last month inside the Baghdad home of Deputy Prime Minister Salam Z. al-Zobaee. That attack wounded the lawmaker and killed at least six people.

Two workers in the Iraqi parliament's cafeteria were detained Friday in connection with Thursday's bombing, said Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman. Neither has been charged, he said. A senior Iraqi government official said Thursday that the attack may have been carried out by a Sunni lawmaker's bodyguard.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the senior American operations commander in Iraq, said that the bombing "dealt another blow" to the Iraqi people and that U.S. and Iraqi forces have "a long way to go" to provide security in the war-torn country.

"Frankly, yesterday was a bad day -- a very bad day," Odierno told reporters Friday in a videoconference from a military camp in Baghdad. "But we're going to come back from that. We're going to continue to work this security. We're going to work it with the Iraqis."

While outer search stations are manned by guards contracted by the U.S. government, the parliament building had its own private Iraqi guards. After Thursday's attack, Iraq's government transferred security of the building to its Interior Ministry, Odierno said. He said the U.S. military would help Iraqi security forces keep the building secure but not assume guard duties.

Meanwhile, officials offered new and conflicting death tolls for the bombing.

The U.S. military issued a statement saying the blast killed one person and wounded 22. An official cautioned, however, that investigators had not ruled out the possibility that others who were wounded or killed had been taken to hospitals outside the Green Zone and remained uncounted.

Moussawi, the Iraqi military spokesman, said the bombing killed two people and wounded 10.

On Thursday, the U.S. military had said eight people were killed and 23 were wounded, which would have made the attack the most lethal in the four-year history of the fortresslike Green Zone.

"Yesterday's reports were based on initial reports from the scene," the military statement said Friday. "During evacuation operations, emergency responders and eyewitnesses reported that casualties were being evacuated in multiple directions."

U.S. and Iraqi officials did not name those killed in the blast, but lawmakers said one victim was Sunni lawmaker Mohammed Awad. Awad's body was taken to Tikrit, north of Baghdad, for burial Friday, according to television news reports.

Parliament members gathered for an unusual Friday session to denounce the blast and call for unity among the country's fractured population. Flowers were placed on Awad's vacant chair.

Three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi interpreters for the U.S. military were killed Thursday in two incidents south of Baghdad, the military announced Friday. One soldier was killed in a roadside bombing that wounded one other soldier, the military said. Two soldiers and two interpreters were killed and seven soldiers were wounded when their patrol base was attacked by insurgents, the military said.

Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson in Washington and special correspondent Naseer Nouri in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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