Baghdad governor shot dead; bombing kills 10
Gunmen killed the Baghdad governor in Iraq's highest-profile assassination in eight months and a suicide bomber killed 10 people near the Green Zone on Tuesday in an escalating campaign to wreck a Jan. 30 election.
The targeting of Governor Ali al-Haidri showed insurgents' power to strike at the heart of Iraq's governing class, raising fresh doubts whether Iraqi security forces can protect politicians and voters as the national ballot draws near.
The bombing, which also wounded 58 people, brought fresh scenes of bloodshed and destruction to Baghdad a day after 17 security men were killed in a string of ambushes and explosions across the country.
The attacks were the latest in a drive by Sunni insurgents trying to force out U.S.-led forces, cripple the American-backed interim government and scare voters away from the polls. Iraqi leaders say guerrillas also want to provoke sectarian civil war.
Details of Haidri's death remained sketchy. He was the most senior Iraqi official to be assassinated in Baghdad since the head of the Governing Council was killed by a suicide bomb in May last year.
Haidri, the head of Baghdad province, had survived a previous assassination attempt in September.
Insurgents have repeatedly targeted Iraqi officials as well as the country's fledgling security forces as part of a fierce effort to destabilize the government.
Tuesday's powerful explosion hit a roadblock manned by police and National Guards on the outskirts of the Green Zone, police and witnesses said.
SECURITY FORCES VULNERABLE
The choice of targets again showed the vulnerability of Iraq's security forces.
Suicide bombers have struck the entrances to the complex, the site of palaces that once belonged to former dictator Saddam Hussein, several times since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
The Foreign Office in London said overnight that three British nationals were killed in an explosion in Baghdad on Monday, but gave no further details.
In west Baghdad on Monday, an explosives-laden car tried to ram through a checkpoint on a road leading to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's party offices but hit a police pick-up truck and blew up, killing two officers and a civilian.
Police commanders said the bomber had been driving a taxi, a method used before by insurgents to avoid raising suspicion.
The Iraqi militant group Army of Ansar al-Sunna, which last week mounted the deadliest suicide attack on Americans since the start of the war with an attack on a U.S. base in Mosul, claimed responsibility for the bombing.
"One of the lions of Islam launched a heroic martyrdom operation on a huge congregation of agent policemen protecting the party headquarters of the apostate Iyad Allawi," the group said in a statement posted on its Web site.
Osama bin Laden and Islamist groups have pledged to wreck the elections as part of a holy war.
Bloodshed has been heaviest in areas dominated by Saddam's once-privileged Sunni minority which now faces the prospect of elections cementing the newfound political power of the long- oppressed Shi'ite majority.
U.S. and Iraqi officials ushered in the New Year warning they expected a spike in pre-election assaults by insurgents but pledging to do everything possible to safeguard what they say will be the country's first free elections since the 1950s.
Also on Tuesday, a U.S. Marine was killed in action in al- Anbar province west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
Anbar province includes the restive cities of Falluja, where U.S. forces launched a major assault in November to drive out insurgents, and Ramadi.
Since the invasion to oust Saddam in March last year, at least 1,049 U.S. military and Pentagon personnel have been killed in action in Iraq. Including non-combat deaths, the toll is at least 1,334.