Shiite politician escapes death
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A suicide car bomber killed 15 people Monday in trying to assassinate the head of Iraq’s strongest Shiite party before parliamentary elections next month, while the biggest Sunni Muslim political group dealt a blow to ballot plans by withdrawing from the campaign because of lax security.
Meanwhile, in an audiotape broadcast by Al-Jazeera satellite television, a man purported to be Osama bin Laden endorsed Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of elections.
The bomber tried to drive his car through the gate at the home of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, but detonated his explosives when guards blocked the way.
Fifteen people died and at least 50 were wounded in the explosion, which shook Baghdad’s Jadiriyah district and sent a cloud of smoke billowing into the sky, police Capt. Ahmed Ismail said. Thirty-two cars on the street were destroyed or damaged. Al-Hakim, who was inside, was not hurt.
Al-Hakim heads the 228-candidate list of the United Iraqi Alliance, which includes parties and individuals from all Iraqi ethnic and religious groups but is dominated by Shiites, who account for about 60 percent of the country’s population. Backed by Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the coalition is widely expected to dominate the post-election constitutional assembly.
Just hours after the blast, the leader of a moderate Sunni bloc, the Iraqi Islamic Party, announced that the group had reversed its earlier decision to take part in the Jan. 30 elections.