Al-Qaida’s wing in Iraq on Sunday claimed responsibility for a brazen overnight raid on Abu Ghraib prison that wounded 44 U.S. soldiers, according to an Internet statement, and said more attacks would follow.
The U.S. military said dozens of insurgents carried out Saturday’s attack on the notorious prison outside Baghdad, detonating two suicide car bombs and firing rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. forces before the assault was repelled.
“Your brothers in the al-Qaida Organization (for Holy War) in Iraq launched a well-planned attack on Abu Ghraib prison, where Muslim women and men are held,” said the statement posted on a Web site used by Islamists.
It said suicide car bombs and missile strikes on U.S. forces preceded a gunbattle that lasted most of the night.
“Columns of smoke were seen rising from the crusaders’ bases,” the statement said. “This battle is part of a series of raids ... which began yesterday across the land of Mesopotamia.”
The group said it would provide a film of the attack soon.
Besides the 44 U.S. troops wounded, 12 detainees were hurt, one seriously. The U.S. military said at least one insurgent was killed.
It was believed to be the largest and most determined attack on Abu Ghraib, a prison where more than 3,000 suspected insurgents are held in U.S. detention and which was at the center of a prisoner abuse scandal last year.
Separately on Sunday, Iraqi lawmakers elected Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani, a Sunni Arab, as parliament speaker, ending days of deadlock.
Former nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, and Kurdish leader Aref Taifour were elected as al-Hassani's deputies. The decision came two months after historic elections, and was a step toward repairing the tattered image of the newly elected National Assembly, which had bickered for days over who would take the speaker post.
Officials also hoped to name a new president, likely Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, and his two vice presidents, later in the session.
Once in his post, Talabani and his two vice presidents have two weeks to name the new interim prime minister, expected to be Shiite politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari. After that, the legislative body has until mid-August to write a new constitution that will pave the way for new elections and a permanent government.
Parliament’s 275 members have struggled to form a new government after the historic Jan. 30 elections. Their session Tuesday to choose a parliament speaker disintegrated into shouts and accusations.
All the candidates for speaker were Sunni Arabs, an effort to reach out to the minority group once dominant under Saddam Hussein and believed to be the backbone of the country’s insurgency.