At Least 9 Dead in Attacks in Iraq

iraq_60011.jpgBAGHDAD — A wave of violence, including an assassination attempt against a deputy oil minister, swept through Baghdad and neighboring Diyala Province on Monday Also on Monday, Parliament passed a bill that would grant the country’s embattled minorities fewer guaranteed seats in upcoming elections than the United Nations had recommended.

The prospects for enactment of the bill, which requires the approval of Iraq’s executive council, are unclear. In September, Parliament passed a law on provincial elections but, in a controversial action, deleted from it an article dealing with representation of Iraq’s many minorities.

The council, composed of the country’s president and two vice presidents, signed that measure into law early last month but directed Parliament to pass separate legislation on the issue.

In the most lethal attack of the day, 6 people were killed and 20 wounded when two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior’s criminal investigations unit in Baghdad’s central Karada district, according to an official at the ministry who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The deadlier bomb was planted in front of the protective concrete wall ringing the government building. The other was about 70 yards away. Two badly burned bodies lay on the street shortly after the explosions.

“I cannot believe what happened,” said a bewildered policeman at the scene, who said he had worked for the directorate for 35 years. “Who can plant a bomb in this fortified area in the presence of police patrols?”

The assassination attempt against the deputy oil minister came about 30 minutes before the Karada blasts. The official, Saheb Salman Qutub, was wounded, along with his driver, when a bomb planted in his car exploded, according to a ministry spokesman, Asim Jihad.

The explosion occurred as Mr. Qutub was getting into the car at his home in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Atafiya to go to work, Mr. Jihad said.

A Japanese delegation visited the ministry Monday to discuss investments in Iraq’s lucrative oil and gas sectors.

In other violence, a huge car bomb exploded in a parking lot next to the headquarters of the local government in Baquba in Diyala Province, killing at least 3 and wounding 13, including 8 police officers, according to security and provincial officials.

The blast destroyed 22 vehicles and badly damaged several nearby government buildings.

Ibrahim Bajlan, who heads the Diyala provincial council, said the attack was proof that the situation in the province remained “fragile” and that the government’s lauded recent security operation in Diyala had “only accomplished a fraction of its goals.”

Fourteen other people were wounded in four other bombing attacks in Baghdad, according to the official of the Interior Ministry.

In the northern city of Mosul, a child was killed and five other people wounded in a roadside bombing aimed at a police patrol, security sources said.

The attacks came a day after American and Iraqi military officials said that overall levels of violence across the country were at their lowest level since May 2004.

In passing legislation that could stoke further tensions between Iraq’s fractious ethnic and sectarian groups, Parliament voted to guarantee minorities significantly fewer seats on provincial councils than had been recommended by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.

The bill would give Christians a single seat on councils in Baghdad, Basra and Nineveh, instead of the three seats in Baghdad and three in Nineveh, as well as one in Basra, that were proposed by the United Nations mission.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who, like Christians, have been reeling from attacks and displacement since the start of the war in 2003, were given one seat in Nineveh, instead of the three proposed. Two other minorities, the Shabaks and the Sabeans, were given one seat apiece.

The new bill is supposed to be a compromise following the controversy that erupted in late September when Parliament passed the elections law but deleted an article that had provided 13 seats in six provinces for Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and other minorities. The new bill grants only six seats. The United Nations mission had proposed a total of 12.

Younadim Kanna, one of two Christians in Parliament, described Monday’s vote as “a great insult.”

“There is no desire to respect minorities as the indigenous people of this country,” Mr. Kanna said. “This quota is simply a face-saving mechanism by the ruling parties.”

Mohamed Hussein and Abeer Mohammed contributed reporting from Baghdad, and an Iraqi employee of The New York Times from Baquba, Iraq.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/world/middleeast/04iraq.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin