4 Americans Die in Attack During Sadr City Meeting

A bomb struck a municipal council building Tuesday in Baghdad's Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City, killing at least 10 people, including four Americans, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Video by AP
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BAGHDAD, June 24 -- Steven L. Farley, a State Department official working to build up the local government in the Baghdad enclave of Sadr City, knew he and his colleagues had taken a bold step, his son Brett recalled Tuesday.

Farley and other U.S. officials had learned that the Sadr City District Council's acting chairman was loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and had urged other members of the local advisory group to force the man to resign.

That was last week. On Tuesday, Farley, 57, and three other Americans were killed when a bomb exploded in the District Council building, just minutes before the selection of a new chairman was to begin.

Capitalizing on recent security gains in Iraq, U.S. soldiers and diplomats have waded deep into Iraqi politics in an effort to build moderate and responsive government bodies that they hope will erode the appeal of extremists.

Tuesday's attack, which came a day after an enraged former council member in a small town south of Baghdad fatally shot two U.S. soldiers after a meeting, underscored how perilous that mission remains.

"He was a great father and a patriot," Farley's oldest son, Brett, 31, said in a telephone interview from Crescent, Okla. "He said plainly that he was willing to die doing this. He was willing to die for his country."

U.S. officials did not identify the three other Americans killed in the attack. One was a civilian who worked for the Department of Defense and the two others were soldiers. A third American soldier was wounded.

A U.S. military spokesman said no Iraqis died in the bombing. An Iraqi hospital source speaking on the condition of anonymity said one Iraqi man was killed in the blast.

Brett Farley said he learned of the events that preceded the bombing from his father. Sadr City District Council member Jawad Attabi and Maj. Ahmed Khalaf Hussein, an Iraqi army official in Sadr City familiar with the investigation, corroborated the account.

The bomb detonated about 9:30 a.m. inside the council building, which is in the southern portion of the vast Shiite area, a stronghold of Sadr's. The district, home to roughly 2 million people, is the launching site for most rockets fired into the Green Zone, the fortified area housing many U.S. and Iraqi officials, and is the nucleus of anti-American sentiment and rhetoric in Iraq.

U.S. and Iraqi troops battled Shiite fighters in the district in March and April, leaving hundreds dead and vast areas in ruins.

Leaders of Sadr's political movement and Iraqi government officials reached a cease-fire agreement in May that allowed thousands of Iraqi troops to enter the district. Before agreeing to the cease-fire, however, Sadrist leaders demanded that U.S. troops remain on the sidelines. U.S. officials focused their mission on economic development and repairing infrastructure.

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