Car bombs kill 10 in Iraq; More attacks on election workers in run-up to December vote
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Car bombs killed 10 people Saturday in Baghdad and elsewhere in central Iraq, while gunmen opened fire on campaign workers putting up posters in the run-up to next month’s parliamentary elections.Also Saturday, the U.S. military said it has received information that a top aide to the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed last month in Ramadi. The death of Bilal Mahmud Awad Shebah was confirmed by a close relative and “coalition sources,” the military said in a statement.The violence came two days before Saddam Hussein’s trial resumes after a five-week break.The first prosecution witnesses are expected to testify before the five-judge panel, offering accounts of the deaths of more than 140 Shiite villagers following an assassination attempt against Saddam in the town of Dujail in 1982.If convicted Saddam and his seven co-defendants could be sentenced to death by hanging.Six people were killed and 12 wounded when a suicide car bomber struck in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police Lt. Col. Mahmoud Mohammed said.Four other people died when a car bomb exploded in western Baghdad as two armored cars passed by, according to police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud said. Nobody in the convoy was injured, but one of the armored cars was damaged and removed by U.S. forces, Mahmoud said.More than 270 people have been killed since Nov. 18 in car bombings and suicide attacks in Iraq.Elsewhere, the U.S. military said an American soldier assigned to the 2nd Marine Division was killed Friday when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad.The latest death raised the number of U.S. service members to die since the Iraq war started in March 2003 to at least 2,105, according to an Associated Press count.U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned of an upsurge in insurgent attacks ahead of the Dec. 15 elections, in which voters will choose the first fully constitutional parliament since Saddam Hussein’s rule collapsed in April 2003.American authorities are hoping for a big Sunni Arab turnout, a move that could produce a government that would win the trust of the religious community that forms the backbone of the insurgency.Many Sunnis boycotted the January election, enabling rival Shiites and Kurds to win an overwhelming share of power and worsening communal tensions. A government trusted by Sunni Arabs could help defuse the insurgency and enable U.S. and other international troops to begin heading home next year.However, insurgents opposed to the election are expected to step up their campaign of intimidation as the ballot approaches.On Saturday, gunmen opened fire on four people as they plastered campaign posters for the biggest Shiite party on walls in western Baghdad, killing one person and wounding three, police said.In Mosul, gunmen fired on members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the country’s largest Sunni Arab political movement, while they were putting up campaign posters, wounding one person, police said.A statement posted on an Islamist Web in the name of al-Qaida in Iraq also claimed responsibility for killing a Kurdish election volunteer in Mosul. The statement said Miqdad Ahmed Sito, 28, was seized in the city’s Shifaa neighborhood.A friend of Sito, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his own safety, said Sito worked for the Organization for Development and Democratic Dialogue, a non-governmental organization that lectures voters about elections and the country’s new constitution.His bullet-riddled body was found late Tuesday in the same neighborhood where he was abducted, the friend said.Al-Qaida has often spoken out against elections, saying that devout Muslims should follow the Muslim holy book Quran as their only formula for governance. Al-Zarqawi repeatedly has threatened Iraqis who participate in elections, regardless of whether they are Muslims.In its statement, the U.S. military said the al-Zarqawi aide, also known as Abu Ubaydah, was killed Oct. 14 in Ramadi, a center of the Sunni Arab-led insurgency 70 miles west of Baghdad.”Detained members of al-Qaida claim Abu Ubaydah served as an ‘executive secretary’ for Zarqawi; met with Zarqawi frequently; served as a messenger and gatekeeper for Zarqawi; screened all messages and requests for meetings with Zarqawi (and) was one of Zarqawi’s most trusted associates,” the statement said.