Baghdad blast kills 6, wounds top officials

By Ahmed Rasheed and Claudia Parsons BAGHDAD, Reuters

Iraq’s Shiite vice president and a Cabinet minister were wounded in an apparent assassination attempt on Monday when a bomb killed six people at a ministry in Baghdad where they were attending a ceremony.

An aide said Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a member of the Shiite majority that dominates the U.S.-backed government, was taken to hospital after suffering minor wounds in the blast at a hall of the Public Works Ministry building.

But one witness told Reuters the bomb explosion had thrown Abdul-Mahdi against a wall.

“When the blast occurred, Abdul-Mahdi was thrown against the wall. All his guards threw themselves on top of him,” he said.

Public Works Minister Riad Ghareeb and his deputy had also been taken to hospital after being wounded, police sources said.

The nature of their wounds was unclear, but one employee said he had spoken to the minister by telephone after the blast.

Officials had previously said the minister was unhurt.

Senior ministry officials were among those killed in the blast in the Sunni Arab neighbourghood of Mansour in western Baghdad, police said

Iraq’s leaders are often targeted by militants engaged in Shiite-Sunni sectarian fighting.

The cause of the blast, which wounded 31 people, was under investigation. But militants are increasingly using suicide vests to launch attacks due to tighter checks on roads aimed at reducing car bombs under a U.S.-backed security plan in Baghdad.

“We know he has been sent to hospital but it’s a natural checkup,” the political source, from Iraq’s governing Shiite Alliance, told Reuters, referring to the vice president.

Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi forces are deployed in the capital to quell sectarian violence in an operation regarded as a final effort to stop Iraq plunging into all out civil war.

Renewing accusations that Iranian-made weapons are being used by Iraqi militants fighting American troops, the U.S. military showed on Monday what it said was a large cache of Iranian bombs found in a raid north of Baghdad on Saturday.

The cache, displayed to reporters at a U.S. military base in Baghdad, included components to fabricate sophisticated roadside bombs, mortar bombs and rockets.

Washington, which accuses Iran of fanning violence in Iraq, is particularly concerned about so-called “explosively formed penetrators”, a deadly Iranian-made roadside bomb the U.S. military says has killed 170 U.S. soldiers in Iraq since 2004. Tehran denies it fuels violence in Iraq.

Military officials said the weaponry showed on Monday was clearly made in Iran. They said there was no way to know if the Iranian government was involved in supplying the weapons.

The attack in which Abdul-Mahdi was hurt came with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Jordan where he was undergoing medical tests after suffering extreme exhaustion and dehydration.