Explosion deepens Iraqi rift
Iraqi security forces lead three suspects (in orange jumpsuits) accused of taking part in the killing of Shiite Muslim pilgrims. AFP photoA suicide attack killed five people at the interior ministry in Baghdad yesterday as a key political bloc called for early elections in a worsening standoff that has stoked sectarian tensions.
The blast, which left dozens wounded, came just days after the capital was struck by its deadliest violence in more than four months and as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged dialogue between Iraqi politicians to resolve their differences.
The parliamentary movement loyal to anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, said it backed the dissolution of parliament and early elections in a row that has seen Iraq’s Sunni vice president accused of running a death squad and a deputy prime minister call the government a “dictatorship.”
In yesterday’s attack, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed car into the interior ministry compound when guards opened the main gates to allow electrical maintenance workers through, a ministry official said. At least five people were killed and 39 wounded, security and health officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Biden has made a flurry of calls to Iraqi leaders, urging them to mend their fences. In calls to Prime Minister Maliki on Dec. 25 and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani on Dec. 24, Biden “exchanged views... on the current political climate in Iraq and reiterated our support for ongoing efforts to convene a dialogue among Iraqi political leaders,” the White House said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the United Nations and the Iraqi government agreed to relocate several thousand Iranian exiles living in Camp Ashraf in northeastern Iraq, potentially averting a showdown with its residents. The dissidents, who have yet to say if they will go willingly, reported a rocket attack on the camp.
The People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, one-time allies of Saddam Hussein in a common fight against Iran, said Katyusha rockets struck near housing units inside the camp on Sunday night, but did not report any casualties. The People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran first moved to Camp Ashraf during the regime of Saddam, who saw the group as a convenient ally against Tehran. The group is committed to the overthrow of the Iranian regime. The group carried out a series of bombings and assassinations against Iran’s clerical regime in the 1980s and fought alongside Saddam’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war. But the group says it renounced violence in 2001. U.S. soldiers disarmed them during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Compiled from AFP and AA stories by the Daily News staff.