BAGHDAD, Iraq – A bomb hidden in a minibus exploded near the offices of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in eastern Baghdad on Tuesday, killing two Iraqi civilians and wounding three, police said.
The minibus that just pulled to the side of the street in a market, about 400 yards from al-Sadr's offices, said witness Naim Madkour, 36, a perfume shop owner. The van had been picking up passengers, but he couldn't see if it had any inside at the time of the blast.
One man fled from the minibus just before it blew up, Madkour said. Iraqis often ride around the capital by paying small fees to privately owned minibuses.
The explosion at 11:45 a.m. in mostly Shiite Sadr City damaged nearby storefronts, which were closed, but there were few people in the street because the market opens in the evening.
The bomb, hidden in a plastic bag in the parked minibus, killed two Iraqi civilians and wounded three, said police Lt. Ahmed Mohammed.
Al-Sadr controls the Mahdi Army, one of many militias that have been blamed for a wave of sectarian kidnappings in killings in Baghdad and other cities in the last few months.
Al-Sadr has refused to disband the Mahdi Army unless the other militias are abolished and the army and police prove capable of protecting Shiites from Sunni extremists.
In other violence in Iraq on Tuesday, a car bomb, four roadside bombs and two drive-by shootings killed two Iraqis and wounded nine people: six Iraqis and three U.S. soldiers, police said. The corpses of six tortured Iraqis also were discovered, five in Baghdad and one in Basra: Salih Talib, a member of the National Accord Party of the former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
The latest deaths brought to about 80 number of Iraqis reported killed in insurgency or sectarian-related violence since Jawad al-Maliki was formally tapped Saturday to head a national unity government. The United States believes a unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds is essential to halting the country's slide to chaos.
Sunni Arabs say Shiite militias have infiltrated the Interior Ministry — controlled by the biggest Shiite party — and used death squads to kill Sunnis. Sectarian violence has flared since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
But the killings have gone both ways.
Al-Maliki, a Shiite, has 30 days from April 22 to present his Cabinet to parliament for majority approval. In an interview on Iraqi television, al-Maliki said Tuesday that he expects the lineup to be finalized within 15 days.
As he spoke, political parties met separately in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone to discuss proposed Cabinet ministers.
In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush's national security adviser, Steven Hadley, was asked on CBS's "The Early Show" Tuesday if he thought al-Maliki could succeed.
"The important thing is that the Iraqis think so. He was their choice," Hadley said. He's talked about the importance of disarming militias ... so he's saying the right things."
"He's the choice of the Iraqi people," Hadley added, "and we will, of course, support him and help him succeed. .. A lot hinges on his success."
Asked what remains the gravest threat to the success of a new government in Iraq, Hadley said, "Well, obviously the bloodshed is going to continue. We would hope that as groups enter into the political process, that the various groups will conclude that force and violence are not the answer. ... As the government steps up and makes decisions, it will bring Iraqis together and hopefully the violence will subside."
In Tuesday's attacks outside Sadr City:
— A roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad near an American military convoy in the mostly Shia neighborhood of Baya, but no casualties were immediately reported.
— A roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad's northern Sunni neighborhood of Azamiya near an Iraqi police patrol, wounding two policemen and a bystander.
— A car bomb partially exploded at 10:45 a.m. near a police patrol in western Baghdad, wounding two policemen and damaging their vehicle.
— In Mosul, a mostly Sunni city in the north, a roadside bomb seriously wounded an Iraqi policeman, and a drive-by shooting killed a Kurdish civilian.
— A roadside bomb exploded near a foot patrol of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers in the village of Haqlaniyah. A witness said three American soldiers were wounded, but the U.S. military could not immediately confirm that.
— In Mahaweel, a town south of Baghdad, gunmen in a black BMW sedan killed a pedestrian, primary school teacher Salah Hassan Shumar.