Suspected al-Qaida bombers stepped up attacks on
key transportation arteries, striking a bridge north of the capital Monday a day
after shutting the superhighway south of Baghdad with a huge explosion that
collapsed an overpass and killed three U.S. soldiers.
Parliament speaker Mahmoud
al-Mashhadani listens during a parliament session in Baghdad, Iraq, in
this April 13, 2007 file photo. Parliament voted Monday June 11 2007 in a
closed session to remove the speaker after a series of scandals involving
the controversial lawmaker, legislators said. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani will
be replaced by another Sunni Arab, they said. [AP]
The latest attack, a parked truck bomb, blew apart the bridge that carries
traffic over the Diyala River in Baqouba, police said on condition they not be
identified by name because they feared retribution. There were no casualties,
but motorists and truckers now must use a road that runs through
al-Qaida-controlled territory to reach important nearby cities.
Baqouba is the capital of Diyala province, which is swarming with al-Qaida
fighters. Those militants were driven out of Baghdad by the four-month-old U.S.
security operation and out of Anbar province west of the capital by Sunni
tribesman who rose up against the terrorist group.
The attacks on the bridges were only the latest in a campaign to deepen
turmoil in Iraq, especially on the vital transportation network linking Baghdad
to the rest of the country. Such bombings ¡ª especially suicide attacks ¡ª are an
al-Qaida trademark and one of the group's many and ever-shifting tactics against
U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Earlier this month, a bomb heavily damaged the Sarhat Bridge, a key crossing
90 miles north of the capital on a major road connecting Baghdad with Irbil,
Sulaimaniya and other Kurdish cities.
In March and April, three of Baghdad's 13 bridges over the Tigris River were
bombed. The attacks were blamed on Sunni insurgent or al-Qaida attempts to
divide the city's predominantly Shiite east bank from the mostly Sunni western
side of the river.
The most serious attack, an April 12 suicide truck bombing, collapsed the
landmark Sarafiyah bridge and sent cars plunging into the brown waters of the
Tigris. Eleven people were killed.
U.S. forces used bulldozers Monday to push aside the rubble of the overpass
that crashed onto Iraq's main north-south highway just east of Mahmoudiyah, a
dangerous triangle of death city with a large al-Qaida presence.
The suicide truck bombing 20 miles south of Baghdad not only brought down a
section of the bridge, it killed three U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint and wounded
six other American soldiers along with an Iraqi interpreter, the U.S. military
said in a statement issued at its Camp Victory headquarters at Baghdad
Paul Kane, a fellow with the International Security Program at Harvard
University's Kennedy School of Government, said the attacks on bridges are an
extension of earlier insurgent attacks on "electric generation sites,
infrastructure for water and also the obvious target of oil pipelines."
Kane noted that Iraq does not have railroad service so insurgents "may be at
the end of the transit list. If anything, it means they're trying to be creative
and they're running out of targets."
Tumult arose in Iraq's fragile political structure Monday when lawmakers
declared themselves fed up with the parliament speaker and voted to oust the
controversial Sunni politician from his powerful post.
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani is a physician who was jailed by Saddam Hussein and who
had said from the parliament speaker's chair that those who attack American
forces should be treated as heroes. He was voted out in a closed session of the
Shiite-dominated 275-member legislature.
His ouster appeared to have grown out of a shouting match Sunday with
lawmaker Firyad Mohammed Omar, a Shiite Turkoman.
Omar had complained to the speaker about the heavy-handedness of
al-Mashhadani's bodyguards; al-Mashhadani responded abusively, according to
lawmakers who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the
issue. Omar told fellow legislators that the speaker's guards had assaulted him.
Al-Mashhadani's deputy, Khaled al-Attiyah, who chaired the closed session,
will assume the duties of the speaker until a replacement is chosen.
"It's an illegal decision made by a juvenile house," al-Mashhadani told the
U.S.-funded Radio Sawa in an interview posted on the Internet.
Al-Mashhadani is part of the Accordance Front, parliament's largest Sunni
Arab bloc with 44 of the house's 275 seats. Salim Abdullah, a fellow lawmaker
from the Accordance Front, said it would offer a replacement for al-Mashhadani
within a week.
The speaker's job is allotted to a Sunni member of parliament according to an
agreement among lawmakers who struggled for months to chose their leadership, a
prime minister and government.
"We agreed to replace him because we want to improve the house's
performance," Abdullah told The Associated Press.
But al-Mashhadani told Radio Sawa that if his performance as speaker were
below par, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's was "much worse." The level
of competence of President Jalal Talabani, a Sunni Kurd, was "even worse because
he does nothing," the former speaker said.
The man expected to become Britain's next prime minister, meanwhile, met with
Iraqi leaders in an unannounced visit. Treasury chief Gordon Brown has vowed to
study his country's participation in the Iraq war in the face of growing
opposition at home.
Brown, slated to succeed Tony Blair this month, was on a one-day fact-finding
mission, British officials said.
In London, the House of Commons rejected a motion by Britain's opposition
Conservative Party calling for a formal inquiry into the decision to go to war
in Iraq. By a vote of 288 to 253, the lower house of parliament sided with
Blair, who has ruled out such an inquiry while British troops are deployed in
Like so much in Iraq these days, even final exams for high school seniors
aren't going as planned: Iraq's Education Ministry delayed the start of finals
after some of the test questions were leaked to students, an official said.
A week of final exams had been due to start Tuesday with the Islamic
education test, but that was put off until July 1 while authorities investigate
reports of cheating, an official said, on condition of anonymity because of the
sensitivity of the subject.
Iraqi police, morgue and hospital officials reported 34 deaths in sectarian
violence across Iraq on Monday, including 17 bodies dumped on Baghdad streets
and believed to be the victims of Shiite death squads.