9 Killed, Dozens Hurt in Iraq Blasts

By Mary Beth Sheridan and Aziz Alwan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

BAGHDAD, Nov. 3 -- Nine people were killed and dozens wounded Monday in bombings in Baghdad and eastern Diyala province, including a failed assassination attempt against a senior Oil Ministry official, authorities said.

The violence highlighted the increasing number of relatively precise attacks targeting Iraqi politicians, police officers, journalists and others.

Six people died when a pair of explosive devices detonated at 7:55 a.m. near a police patrol on a street near al-Tahrayat Square in eastern Baghdad, according to police and witnesses. Among the dead were three police officers, authorities said. Twenty-two people were wounded, including 10 members of a U.S.-backed security force known as Sons of Iraq who were with the patrol, officials said.

A 35-year-old mechanic who lives in the largely Christian neighborhood said he was startled by the explosion and the sound of his windows shattering.

"Suddenly I woke up, and there was a lot of glass all over my apartment, and I was injured in my right hand. All I could think of at that moment was just to hold my baby," said the mechanic, who identified himself only as Akrum. Police ordered residents to stay inside and off their balconies, he said.

About the same time, an explosion ripped apart the car of Abdul Sahib Salman Qutub, a deputy oil minister, outside his Baghdad home, authorities said. Qutub suffered minor injuries, while his driver was more seriously wounded, according to Asim Jihad, the spokesman for the Oil Ministry.

He said the explosion was caused by a bomb affixed to the minister's car with magnets. A statement from the ministry blamed "terrorists and outlaws," but no group asserted responsibility. The U.S. military says such explosives are used by Shiite extremists and the mostly homegrown Sunni group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The attack on Qutub came 11 days after a suicide bomber tried unsuccessfully to kill Iraq's labor minister in rush-hour traffic. Violence in Iraq has dropped to its lowest levels since the spring of 2004, but bombs continue to go off nearly every day.

Roadside bombs "and sticky bombs have become the biggest threat," said Gen. Naseer Abadi, the vice chief of staff of the Iraqi military, at a news conference this week. He was referring to small bombs attached to vehicles with magnets or glue.

Another such bomb exploded Monday in a car on Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, killing one person and injuring two, police said.

In Baqubah, capital of Diyala province, a booby-trapped car blew up at midday in front of a government office where a conference on media freedom was underway. Two police officers died and eight people were wounded, including two journalists, said Ibrahim Hasan Bajilan, head of the provincial council.

Iraq's parliament put the finishing touches Monday on a law setting up provincial elections by the end of January, as lawmakers voted to set aside six of the 440 seats on provincial councils for minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.

Members of religious minorities had protested after parliament passed the law without guaranteeing them representation.

A special correspondent in Baqubah contributed to this report.

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