BAGHDAD – Iraq's largest Sunni-Arab political party on Wednesday condemned a car bomb attack inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone that apparently attempted to kill Iraq's controversial speaker of parliament.
The small bomb exploded Tuesday afternoon at the back of an armored car in the motorcade of the Sunni speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, as it was driving into a parking lot near the Green Zone's convention center, where al-Mashhadani and other Iraqi legislators were meeting, a parliamentary aide said.
The slightly wounded American security guard driver got out of the vehicle and found other explosive devices planted beneath it, the aide said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The driver called U.S. soldiers who brought bomb sniffing dogs to the scene that detected explosives in another vehicle in the area belonging to al-Mashhadani's motorcade, said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman.
Bomb specialists detonated that car, which set off a series of blasts that caused a fire but injured no one and caused no major damage to nearby structures, Garver said. The blaze was put out by the Green Zone's fire department.
"Obviously, we take security very seriously so we are investigating this incident," Garver said Wednesday.
The serious security breach in the Green Zone -- which houses the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British embassies and thousands of foreign troops and private contractors -- forced the Iraqi legislators to stay inside the convention center for several hours until the fire was put out and the area found to be safe, the aide said.
"We strongly condemn this act," Ammar Wajih, the chief spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni-Arab part in Iraq, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"To plant a bomb in a heavily guarded place near the parliament building is a big security breach because few authorized persons can enter this area. The aim of this act is to hamper the political process."
In other developments:
--U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced they will meet Nov. 29-30 in Jordan to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. "We will focus our discussions on current developments in Iraq, progress made to date in the deliberations of a high-level joint committee on transferring security responsibilities, and the role of the region in supporting Iraq," they said in a statement.
--At least 13 Iraqis were killed and six wounded Wednesday in attacks by suspected insurgents using drive-by shootings and bombings in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq, police said. Coalition forces also said they detained 59 suspected insurgents during raids in Baghdad, Fallujah and south of the capital in the past few days.
--Raad Jaafar Hamadi, an Iraqi journalist working for the state-run al-Sabah newspaper in Baghdad, was killed in a drive-by shooting Wednesday, police said. The slaying raised to at least 92 the number of journalists who have been killed in Iraq since the Iraq war began. Thirty-six other media employees -- including drivers, interpreters and guards -- also have been killed, all of them Iraqi except one Lebanese.
--A U.S. soldier died of a non-battle injury north of Baghdad on Tuesday, raising to at least 2,866 the number of U.S. servicemen who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003. So far this month in Iraq, 48 American service members have been killed or died.
Mashhadani, a hard-line Sunni Arab nationalist reviled by many Shiites, was the fourth high-ranking Iraqi government official to be targeted by assailants in recent days.
On Monday, Minister of State Mohammed Abbas Auraibi, a member of Iraq's Shiite majority, said a roadside bomb hit his convoy as it was driving on a highway in eastern Baghdad. He escaped injury but his bodyguards were wounded.
Hakim al-Zamily, a Shiite deputy health minister, also escaped unhurt when gunmen opened fire on his convoy in downtown Baghdad on Monday, killing two of his guards.
On Sunday, Deputy Health Minister Ammar al-Saffar was kidnapped from his home in northern Baghdad, police said.
Also, a lower-ranking official, Saad Kharbet Rashid, an assistant to a general manager at the Health Ministry, was killed by gunmen in downtown Baghdad on Tuesday and his driver wounded, police said.
Last summer, Shiite and Kurdish parties organized an unsuccessful bid to oust al-Mashhadani as parliament speaker after his comments about the insurgency and regional self-rule angered and embarrassed key political groups. He called the U.S. occupation of Iraq "the work of butchers."
On Nov. 1, al-Mashhadani had to be physically restrained from attacking a Sunni lawmaker. The speaker had been holding a nationally televised news conference when he lashed out at the legislator, Abdel-Karim al-Samarie, for alleged corruption and failure to attend sessions, calling him a "dog" -- a deep insult in Iraq and other Arab societies.
"You are dishonest and a dog," screamed al-Mashhadani.
Al-Samarie, a member of the main Sunni parliamentary bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, responded by calling al-Mashhadani a false patriot. The speaker, who belongs to an allied Sunni group -- The National Dialogue Council -- lunged at al-Samarie, but was held back by bodyguards.
Al-Mashhadani then moved on to the parliament's main chamber, where he accosted other Sunni Accordance Front lawmakers, calling them "villains" and "dogs," and accusing them of colluding with the former Baath Party of toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
Al-Mashhadani had been angered by low attendance among Iraqi Accordance Front lawmakers that prevented the 275-seat body from making the quorum of 138 of the 275 lawmakers.