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Anti-al-Qaida leader escapes assassination in Iraq

Sep. 2, 2013 - 02:08PM   |  
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BAGHDAD — A prominent militia leader opposed to al-Qaida escaped an assassination attempt in Baghdad Monday that killed six of his body guards and one civilian and wounded eight people, authorities said. And Turkey’s No. 2 diplomat in the country avoided injury when a roadside bomb blew up as he traveled in a convoy in the northern city of Mosul.

No one was hurt in the bomb blast that damaged one of the vehicles in the convoy of Turkish Consul General Ozturk Yilmaz, said a police official and a Turkish consulate official in Mosul who both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Seven more people were killed and 15 wounded Monday in separate bouts of violence in Baghdad and another Iraqi city as the country reels from waves of sectarian attacks.

Two suicide bombers attacked the motorcade of Wisam al-Hardan, the militia leader, near his house in Baghdad’s western Harthiyah neighborhood. But the Sunni tribal sheik was not injured, said Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan.

Al-Hardan was recently appointed by the Iraqi prime minister to lead the Sunni militia known as Sahwa, which joined U.S. troops in the war against al-Qaida at the height of Iraq war. Ever since, it has been a target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors.

Later in the day, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a security checkpoint near the city of Baqouba, killing four people and wounding 12, said police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Baqouba, a former al-Qaida stronghold, is 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

In Mosul, the roadside bomb blew up near the convoy of the Turkish diplomat after he set out on a trip to the city of Irbil, a journey of about 80 kilometers (50 miles). There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing and officials did not say which vehicle in the convoy was damaged.

Turkey and Iraq have tense relations because Turkey gave refuge to former Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi after the Sunni political leader was sentenced to death after being convicted of ordering assassinations of government officials and security forces. Turkey has also angered Iraqi central government officials by bypassing them to make energy deals with Kurdish authorities in their autonomous northern region.

In southeastern Baghdad Monday, police gunmen using weapons fitted with silencers opened fire on a commercial street, killing two people and wounding three, said a police official who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media. It was not immediately clear why the officers opened fire.

And in Baghdad’s western Baiyaa area, a man was shot dead as he walked near his home, the police official said.

Most attacks on civilians and security forces in recent years have been the work of Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaida. But attacks on Sunni targets have been on the rise in recent months, raising fears that armed Shiite groups are starting to retaliate.

Violence in Iraq has intensified since April to levels not seen since 2008. More than 4,000 people have been killed over the past five months alone, including more than 800 in August, according to figures provided by the UN mission in Iraq.

Following Monday’s convoy bombing, Turkey’s foreign ministry said Ankara requested a thorough investigation into the explosion and increased security for Turkish diplomatic operations in Iraq.

Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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