BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents blew up car bombs and fired rocket propelled grenades at the Abu Ghraib (search) prison west of Baghdad (search), injuring 44 U.S. forces and 13 prisoners after a period of declining attacks that had raised hopes the insurgency might be weakening. Lawmakers also prepared to name a new speaker Sunday, starting a session aimed at ending days of deadlock.
After days of negotiations, lawmakers said Sunday they had agreed to hold a secret ballot to elect Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani (search), a Sunni Arab, as parliament speaker, with former nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani and Kurdish leader Aref Taifour expected to be his deputies.
Lawmakers also hoped to name a new president, likely Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, and his two vice presidents.
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 historic, Jan. 30 elections. Their session Tuesday to choose a parliament speaker disintegrated into shouts and accusations.
All 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.
Late Saturday, dozens of insurgents attacked the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, resulting in a clash that lasted about 40 minutes, 1st Lt. Adam Rondeau said. He added that it was unclear if the clash was aimed at helping prisoners escape, although the militants were unable to penetrate the prison's walls and no detainees were set free.
"This was obviously a very well-organized attack and a very big attack," Rondeau said.
On Sunday, U.S. military officials raised the casualty toll from 20 to 44 U.S. soldiers and Marines wounded.
Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill said one attacker was killed in the clash, but none were detained. He didn't give further details.
Some soldiers were evacuated with serious injuries, officials said, but many wounds were minor and treated at the scene.
Officials refused to say whether the insurgents carrying out the attack were arrested or suffered casualties.
Abu Ghraib was at the center of a prisoner abuse scandal that broke out in 2004 when pictures showing soldiers piling naked inmates in a pyramid and humiliating them sexually became public. The resulting scandal tarnished the military's image worldwide and sparked investigations of detainee abuses.
The United States is holding about 10,500 prisoners in Iraq, with 3,446 at Abu Ghraib.
Also Sunday, two bystanders were injured when a bomb destroyed a store in southeast Baghdad, police Lt. Mazin Saeed said. It was unclear why the store was targeted.