BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s Shiite vice president escaped an apparent assassination attempt Monday after a bomb exploded in municipal offices where he was making a speech, knocking him down with the force of the blast that left at least 10 people dead.
Outside the capital, a suicide car bomber exploded near a police station in Ramadi, killing at least 14 people, including women and children, and wounding 10, police said. It was the second bombing in the volatile province of Anbar in less than a week.
The vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, was bruised and hospitalized for medical exams, an aide said. Police initially blamed the attack on a bomb-rigged car, but later said the explosives were apparently planted inside the building.
The attack sent another message that suspected Sunni militants could strike anywhere despite a major security crackdown across the capital. Hours before the blast, U.S. military teams with bomb-sniffing dogs combed the building, said workers at the site.
The bomb struck while Abdul-Mahdi was addressing municipal officials in the upscale Mansour district, which has many embassies and saw a rise in private security patrols after past kidnappings blamed on militants.
A public works employee, Tagrid Ali, said he was listening to the speech. “Then I heard a big explosion,” he said. “I fell to the ground and whole place was filled with black smoke.”
Iraqi and U.S. soldiers cordoned off the area and bomb-detection teams combed the building. An Associated Press photographer saw a man being led from the building by security forces, but there was no official word on arrests.
“The aggression against you this day is further proof that these groups are doing their best to destroy Iraq’s unity,” said a message to the vice president from Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who heads Iraq’s largest Shiite political group.
At least 10 people were killed and 18 injured in the blast, police said. Another explosion elsewhere in Baghdad killed at least three policemen.
On Sunday, the leader of a powerful Shiite militia, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, complained that the U.S.-Iraqi security sweeps around Baghdad have done nothing to stem the bombings that mostly target Shiite civilians.
The statement — read in Baghdad by an aide to al-Sadr — nearly coincided with a suicide bombing that killed at least 42 people at a mostly Shiite business college. Al-Sadr’s sharply worded comments could signal serious strains ahead for the security effort.
Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia pulled its fighters off the streets under government pressure to let the 13-day-old security plan proceed, but a relentless wave of Sunni attacks has apparently tested al-Sadr’s patience.
A return to the streets by the Mahdi Army forces could effectively end the security effort and raise the chances of Baghdad falling into sectarian street battles — the apparent aim of Sunni extremists seeking any way to destroy the U.S.-backed government.
Al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice president, told the AP that the security plan does not treat all groups equally — an apparent reference to Sunni complaints that they are facing the most pressure and attention.
“Up to now, legal procedures have not been observed,” he said. “The human rights of Iraqis have not been respected as they should be.”
Weapons cache found
U.S. military officials in Iraq on Monday publicly displayed explosives and sophisticated bomb parts from a massive weapons cache recently uncovered north of Baghdad, including components they claimed were manufactured in Iran.
According to officials with the 1st Cavalry Division, the weapons were discovered Saturday after a local Iraqi citizen directed U.S. forces to the cache hidden in two freezers in a palm grove in the town of Jedidah, near Baqouba.
Military officials told the AP that the arsenal discovered Saturday is one of the biggest found north of the Iraqi capital and contains components for so-called EFPs — explosively formed projectiles that fire a slug of molten metal capable of penetrating armored vehicles.
The U.S. military has said elite Iranian corps are funneling EFPs to Shiite militias in Iraq for use against American troops. The area where the cache was found is dominated by Sunni insurgents, but also includes pockets of Shiites.
The cache included dozens of 120mm mortars and 122mm rockets, which the officials said bore Iranian manufacturing markings.
Capt. Clayton Combs, the commander of the company that found the cache, said they had found one or two EFPs previously, but this was the first discovery of an assembly facility for them.
“This is a significant amount,” he said during a news conference in Baghdad. “Before we have found one or two EFPs at the most and those are usually at the site of deployment. This is the first cache ... that has actually been found as far as a production facility.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.