In Iraq, a rash of assassination attempts

By Michael Hastings
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 26, 2009; 3:46 PM

BAGHDAD -- A string of assassination attempts in Baghdad and in the Sunni areas west of of the capital over the past two days killed four people and wounded half a dozen others, including a prominent tribal leader and a member of a Sunni political party, police officials said.

In Baghdad, Mohammed Mehdi, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was killed Saturday evening by a a magnetic device known as sticky bomb near the party's headquarters in Baghdad, a party official said.

Earlier in the day, tribal sheik Mahmoud Hussein al-Obeidi was killed in the town of Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad,when a sticky bomb detonated on his car, which was parked outside of his home, according to Capt. Hassan al-Timimee of the Fallujah police.

Obeidi, who was a supporter of the Sunni political party the Iraqi Accordance Front, was the latest political leader to be killed in a series of apparent attempts to discourage local participation in national elections scheduled for March 7.

Obeidi had no bodyguards with him because he was on his way to morning prayers, al-Timimee said.

"The past two months have seen the highest number of assassination attempts," said Maj. Raheem Zain al-Dulaimi, the Anbar police spokesman. "They've been aimed at religious figures, politicians, police officers and sheiks of the tribes."

"In the past month, 40 people have been targeted," he said.

In Fallujah, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, another bomb detonated Saturday in front of the house of Maj. Ghazi Dura, commander of an Iraqi police counterterrorism unit in Anbar. The attack injured Dura and killed his son, according to police officials.

On Friday night, Saad al-Mashhadani, a university professor in Fallujah, was critically wounded in an attack that also killed his brother and wounded two of his security guards.

According to al-Dulaimi, 90 percent of the assassination attempts have been carried out with sticky bombs imported from "outside Iraq."

Al-Timimee, of the Fallujah police, said that the bomb that killed Obeidi "looked like an Iranian one."

In other violence in the capital Saturday on the eve of the Shiite holiday of Ashura, a bombing that targeted Shiite pilgrims in southeastern Baghdad killed two people and wounded eight, according to the Interior Ministry.

Hastings is a special correspondent for the Washington Post. Special correspondent Othman Mukhtar contributed to this report.

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