By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 25, 2008
BAGHDAD, Aug. 24 -- A suicide bomber killed at least 25 people celebrating the return of an Iraqi detainee from U.S. custody, Iraqi officials said Sunday night.
The blast at a tribal feast in suburban Baghdad's Abu Ghraib area was one of the deadliest attacks in recent months. It served as a grisly reminder of the carnage that insurgents can still inflict in Iraq even as violence reaches its lowest level since the war began.
The attack occurred at 8 p.m. as members of the Awakening Movement, a group mainly made up of former Sunni insurgents who have now joined with U.S. forces, gathered for a party in the city of al-Nasr Wal Salam, west of the capital.
The men were celebrating the release of a son of Adnan Hanoush, head of the Awakening Movement in the city, witnesses said. They said the son, Sami Hanoush, was freed from Camp Bucca, a U.S.-run detention facility, three days ago.
The celebrants were dancing and chanting when a stranger in his late 20s arrived at the feast, witnesses said. They said Adnan Hanoush, thinking the man was lost and needed some help, walked up to him and said, "Peace be upon you, please sit down."
Instead, the man detonated a vest full of explosives, injuring at least 29 people, according to Col. Dawood al-Dulaimi, a police spokesman. He said the dead included both Sami and Adnan Hanoush and four of Sami's brothers.
"I saw flesh and body parts flying through the sky," said Hamid al-Zobaie, 54, a relative of the men, who spoke from a bed at a local hospital, where he was being treated for wounds from the blast. "The walls covered with blood, even the teacups filled with blood."
Zobaie said Sami Hanoush had clashed with members of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which witnesses suggested was behind the bombing. The blast bore the hallmarks of a typical al-Qaeda in Iraq attack.
The bombing also exacerbated tensions among the Awakening Movement toward the Shiite-led Iraqi government. Government leaders have criticized the arming of former Sunni insurgents and recently stepped up their rhetoric and actions against the program.
"I blame the Iraqi government for this security deterioration because it started to chase Sahweh leaders out of the city," said Zobaie, using an Arabic name for the Awakening Movement. "That enabled al-Qaeda to return slowly."
Also on Sunday, the U.S. military said it had captured a Sunni insurgent who planned the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor who was held captive for 82 days in 2006. The military said it captured Salim Abdallah Ashur al-Shujayri, a senior leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, on Aug. 11.
Special correspondents Qais Mizher and Zaid Sabah and other Washington Post staffers in Iraq contributed to this report.