Tue, Jan 25, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Zarqawi's group claims credit for suicide bombing

BAGHDAD BLAST The bomber struck at a police checkpoint on the road leading to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord offices

AP , BAGHDAD

A suicide driver detonated a car bomb at a guard post outside the Iraqi prime minister's party headquarters in Baghdad yesterday, injuring at least 10 people. The al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq claimed responsibility a day after its leader declared all-out war on democracy.

Mortar rounds slammed into an Iraqi National Guard camp near Baghdad International Airport yesterday, as the rumble of distant explosions reverberated through the capital. There was no report of casualties in the mortar attack.

The suicide bomber struck at a police checkpoint on the road leading to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord offices, shaking the city center with a thunderous explosion. Splintered police vehicles were engulfed in flames, and gunfire rattled after the explosion.

Among the wounded were eight policemen and two civilians, said Dr. Mudhar Abdul-Hussein of Yarmouk Hospital.

Al-Qaeda's wing in Iraq said in a Web posting that "one of the young lions in the suicide regiment" carried out the attack against the party office of Allawi, "the agent of the Jews and the Christians."

The attacks occurred six days before Iraq's crucial national elections, the first since the fall of former president Saddam Hussein in 2003. Insurgents have condemned the elections and vowed to disrupt them.

In an audiotape posted Sunday on the Web, a speaker claiming to be Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, declared "fierce war" on democracy and said anyone who takes part in next weekend's elections would be considered "an infidel."

"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," the speaker said. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it."

The speaker warned Iraqis to be careful of "the enemy's plan to implement so-called democracy in your country." He said the Americans have engineered the election to install Shiite Muslims in power.

Al-Zarqawi, who is a Sunni Arab like most of the insurgents here, has in the past branded Shiites as heretics.

The US has offered a US$25 million reward for al-Zarqawi's capture or death -- the same amount as for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

During weekend appearances on US television, the US ambassador to Iraq acknowledged there were serious security problems ahead of this weekend's landmark ballot, in which Iraqis will choose a national legislature that will run the country and draft a permanent constitution. Legislatures in 18 provinces and a regional parliament in the Kurdish-run areas of the north will also be elected.

US and Iraqi officials have warned they expect rebels to unleash bloodshed and mayhem to keep voters from the polls.

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