A bomb hidden in a minibus exploded near the offices of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in eastern Baghdad on Tuesday, killing two Iraqi civilians and wounding three, police said.
In other violence, a car bomb, four roadside bombs and two drive-by shootings killed two Iraqis and wounded nine people — six Iraqis and three U.S. soldiers, police said. The corpses of six Iraqis bearing signs of torture also were discovered, five in Baghdad and one, in Basra, identified as Salih Talib, a member of the National Accord Party of the former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
The minibus had just pulled to the side of the street in a market, about 400 yards from al-Sadr’s offices, said witness Naim Madkour, 36, a perfume shop owner. It had been picking up passengers, but he couldn’t see if it had any inside at the time of the blast.
One man fled from the minibus just before it blew up, Madkour said. Iraqis often ride around the capital by paying small fees to privately owned minibuses.
The explosion at 11:45 a.m. in mostly Shiite Sadr City damaged nearby storefronts, which were closed, but there were few people in the street because the market opens in the evening. The bomb, hidden in a plastic bag, killed two Iraqi civilians and wounded three, said police Lt. Ahmed Mohammed.
Al-Sadr controls the Mahdi Army that has been blamed for a role in a wave of sectarian kidnappings and killings in Baghdad and other cities in the last few months. He has refused to disband the group unless other militias are abolished and the army and police prove capable of protecting Shiites from Sunni extremists.
Violence soars amid political progress
The latest deaths brought to about 80 the number of Iraqis reported killed in insurgent or sectarian violence since Jawad al-Maliki was formally tapped Saturday to head a national unity government. The United States believes a unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds is essential to halting the country’s slide to chaos.
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has until late May to present his Cabinet to parliament for majority approval. In an interview on Iraqi television, al-Maliki said Tuesday that he expects the lineup to be finalized within 15 days.
As he spoke, political parties met separately in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone to discuss proposed Cabinet ministers.
In Washington, President Bush’s national security adviser, Steven Hadley, was asked on CBS’s “The Early Show” Tuesday if he thought al-Maliki could succeed.
“The important thing is that the Iraqis think so. He was their choice,” Hadley said. “He’s talked about the importance of disarming militias ... so he’s saying the right things.”
“He’s the choice of the Iraqi people,” Hadley added, “and we will, of course, support him and help him succeed ... A lot hinges on his success.”
Spate of attacks
In other violence Tuesday:
- A roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad near an American military convoy in the mostly Shiite neighborhood of Bayaa, but no casualties were immediately reported.
- A roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad’s northern Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah near an Iraqi police patrol, wounding two policemen and a bystander.
- A car bomb partially exploded at 10:45 a.m. near a police patrol in western Baghdad, wounding two policemen and damaging their vehicle.
- In Mosul, a mostly Sunni city in the north, a roadside bomb seriously wounded an Iraqi policeman, and a drive-by shooting killed a Kurdish civilian.
- A roadside bomb exploded near a foot patrol of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in the village of Haqlaniyah. A witness said three American soldiers were wounded, but the U.S. military could not immediately confirm that.
- In Mahaweel, a town south of Baghdad, gunmen in a black BMW sedan killed a pedestrian, primary school teacher Salah Hassan Shumar.