Gunmen killed the cultural affairs officer in the Education Ministry on Sunday, the second attack on an Iraqi official in as many days, authorities said.
Attackers ambushed Kamal al-Jarah outside his home as he was leaving for the office at about 7:30 a.m. The attack took place in the Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim neighborhood where support for Saddam Hussein's regime had been strong.
U.S. convoys have often been subjected to attacks in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood.
Al-Jarah died of his wounds at the Yarmouk Hospital, said Abdul Khaliq al-Amri, a ministry official.
Al-Jarah was mainly responsible for dealing with exchange programs and relations with foreign countries and UNESCO. He had worked in the education field for 40 years, al-Amri said.
Spate of attacks
To the north, a locally prominent Kurdish cleric was killed in Kirkuk when gunmen opened fire while he was visiting neighbors, police said.
Iyad Khorshid, a Sunni Muslim preacher, was killed instantly in the Saturday night attack, according to police Col. Sarhat Qadir.
A policeman was also killed in a separate incident when two attackers broke into his house and shot him dead in front of his family, Qadir said. The victim was a member of the city council during the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Elsewhere, a senior Iraqi police official in Baqouba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, was wounded in an assassination attempt late Saturday. Brig. Majeed Almani Mahal was recovering in hospital, officials said.
The chief of Iraq's border police, Maj. Gen. Hussein Mustafa Abdul-Kareem, was lightly wounded Saturday when gunmen fired on his convoy in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said.
Insurgents have launched a campaign to murder police, government officials and other prominent people in the run-up to the transfer of sovereignty June 30.
The attacks came only one day after gunmen killed a deputy foreign minister as he went to work. Bassam Salih Kubba was Iraq's most senior career diplomat.
Kubba, 60, was Iraq’s most senior career diplomat and was slated to stay on in the new administration that takes over after June 30 from the U.S.-led occupation authority.
Kubba was mortally wounded when gunmen drove up behind his car in the city’s Azimiyah district and opened fire, Foreign Ministry spokesman Thamir al-Adhami said.
The assailants then passed the stricken vehicle and fired a second time, the spokesman said. Kubba’s driver escaped injury, but Kubba died in a hospital.
Saddam loyalists blamed
Azimiyah is a predominantly Sunni Muslim neighborhood where Saddam took refuge as American forces overran the city in April 2003 and support for the former regime runs strong there.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the attack “bears all the hallmarks of leftover supporters of Saddam Hussein’s evil regime.”
Kubba was the second senior Iraqi figure to be killed in the last three weeks and the first since U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi appointed the new leadership to take power June 30.
Izzadine Saleem, who at the time headed the now-disbanded Iraqi Governing Council, was killed May 17 in a suicide car-bombing near the entrance to the heavily fortified Green Zone headquarters of the American-run occupation authority.
Ten days later, gunmen ambushed the convoy of another Governing Council member, Salama al-Khafaji, south of Baghdad, killing her son and her chief bodyguard.
Veteran Iraqi diplomat
The American-educated Kubba had served at the United Nations and as Iraq’s ambassador to China before his appointment to manage legal and multilateral affairs at the ministry. He was part of a committee that managed the Foreign Ministry after the collapse of Saddam’s regime.
U.S. authorities had warned of escalating violence in the run-up to the sovereignty transfer as insurgents seek to undermine public confidence in the new administration. The Americans hope that the establishment of a sovereign Iraqi government will take the steam out of the insurgency, allowing security to improve so that balloting for an elected administration can be held by the end of January.
Although the Iraqis will run their own affairs after June 30, about 150,000 U.S. and other coalition troops will remain in the country to held improve security under a U.N. resolution approved unanimously by the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations chief, said the Americans had no intention of withdrawing quickly from Baghdad and other cities despite the sovereignty transfer. He said U.S. and other multinational forces would remain a visible force until Iraqis were ready to ensure their own security.
“I don’t think you’re going to see much difference on July 15 than you saw on January 15,” Kimmitt said. “We will not be pulling out of the cities. We will not be relocating. We certainly would like to see more and more Iraqi security forces at the lead.”
During a press conference Saturday, Kimmitt acknowledged that Americans had not achieved their goals in Fallujah despite relative calm in the city, where hardline Islamic clerics now hold sway.
“There’s still a long way to go in Fallujah before the coalition, and for that matter the Iraqi government, can be satisfied that we have brought Fallujah to resolution,” Kimmitt said.