BAGHDAD – Striking at the Iraqi government’s highest-ranking Sunni Arab, a suicide bomber blew himself up among worshippers at the deputy prime minister’s home Friday, seriously wounding the leader and killing at least nine people in a security breakdown that shook the image of a calming Baghdad.
Salam Al-Zubaie underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from his abdomen at a U.S.-run hospital. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, head of the Shiite Muslim-dominated government, said his deputy was in serious but stable condition and wouldn’t need treatment abroad “for now.”
The bombing, coming a day after a Katyusha rocket slammed just 50 yards from visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, starkly emphasized the continuing chaos in Iraq even after the introduction of thousands more American soldiers and six weeks of an extensive security crackdown in the capital.
An Iraqi military spokesman, Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi, called the suicide bombing an inside job, telling state television that an al-Qaida fighter had infiltrated al-Zubaie’s security detachment.
Al-Maliki aide Mariam Taleb al-Rayes also told al-Sharqiyah television the attacker had “infiltrated” al-Zubaie’s inner circle, but did not elaborate. She added that the bomber’s car blew up outside the house seconds after he detonated his explosives vest.
The bomber attacked al-Zubaie a day after a statement purportedly posted on the Internet by an al-Qaida umbrella group singled him out as a stooge “to the crusader occupiers.”
Hours after the assassination attempt, the same group, the Islamic State in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the bombing and said it was reporting the “good news that our troops were able, with God’s will, to target” al-Zubaie.
“We tell the traitors of al-Maliki’s infidel government, wait for what will destroy you, you will never be safe, with God’s will on the Iraqi soil, as long as we have a blinking eye and a beating heart,” said the statement. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
The bomber detonated an explosives vest after weekly prayers in a small mosque attached to al-Zubaie’s home near the Foreign Ministry, just north of the capital’s heavily guarded Green Zone.
Pools of blood, shredded draperies, broken glass and a tangle of splintered wood littered the floor. The walls were pockmarked from shrapnel.
Ball bearings packed in the explosives vest remained lodged in al-Zubaie’s chest, but surgeons decided against trying to remove them, said Dhafer al-Ani, another Sunni lawmaker.
In other violence Friday, four people were killed in a bombing in Baghdad, and police reported finding 34 apparent victims of sectarian killings dumped nationwide, 25 of them in Baghdad.
The U.S. military said an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in western Baghdad and a Marine died in combat in Anbar province, both on Thursday.