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Iraqi deputy PM wounded in suicide attack

world Updated: Mar 24, 2007 15:45 IST

Reuters
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Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie, a leading Sunni Arab politician, was wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a hall where he was attending prayers on Friday.

Officials said at least six members of Zobaie's entourage were killed in the second assassination bid on a senior member of the U.S.-backed government in a month.

One of Zobaie's aides named the suicide bomber as Wahab Saadi, one of the deputy prime minister's own guards

"He's wounded but it's not serious," an official in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office told Reuters after Maliki visited Zobaie at the US military hospital in Baghdad's international Green Zone.

In the south, Iranian forces seized 15 British Royal Navy personnel, Britain said, triggering a diplomatic crisis and pushing oil prices above $62 a barrel to a three-month high.

"This is just the kind of scenario we've worried about with all these military assets operating so close together," said John Kilduff, senior vice president for energy risk management at Fimat USA.

Britain said the incident took place in Iraqi waters, where it routinely boards merchant vessels with U.N. permission to search them. The Foreign Office summoned Iran's ambassador and demanded the immediate, safe release of the personnel.

"He's wounded but it's not serious," an official in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office told Reuters after Maliki visited Zobaie at the U.S. military hospital in Baghdad's international Green Zone.

In the south, Iranian forces seized 15 British Royal Navy personnel, Britain said, triggering a diplomatic crisis and pushing oil prices above $62 a barrel to a three-month high.

"This is just the kind of scenario we've worried about with all these military assets operating so close together," said John Kilduff, senior vice president for energy risk management at Fimat USA.

Britain said the incident took place in Iraqi waters, where it routinely boards merchant vessels with U.N. permission to search them. The Foreign Office summoned Iran's ambassador and demanded the immediate, safe release of the personnel.



Moussawi said Zobaie was the target of two coordinated attacks — the suicide bomber at a prayer hall in the compound of his residence and a car bomb at his home. He said six of Zobaie's security guards were killed and 15 people wounded.

Zobaie, one of two deputy prime ministers, is a member of the Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab grouping in Iraq's Shi'ite-led national unity government.

He is also a member of a well-known tribe from the Abu Ghraib area northwest of Baghdad.

The aide said rival factions in the tribe were feuding, one side supporting al Qaeda militants and the other loyal to the deputy prime minister and the government

The western province of Anbar has recently seen a surge in violence between tribes who have come out against al Qaeda and militants who have been taking revenge on them for doing so.

Insurgents have frequently targeted leaders of the U.S.- backed government. Last month Iraq's Shi'ite vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, was wounded by shrapnel when a bomb killed six people inside the Public Works Ministry.

Iraqi and U.S. security forces are engaged in a major security crackdown in Baghdad aimed at stemming sectarian violence that threatens to pitch the country into civil war.

Friday's attack was not prevented by a four-hour vehicle curfew that is imposed every Friday in an attempt to stop car bombs on the Muslim holy day when people gather for prayer.

Iran's detention of 15 Royal Navy personnel off the Iraqi coast on Friday is likely to raise tension with Tehran, which Washington and London accuse of interfering in Iraq.

The British government said the servicemen were engaged in "routine boarding operations" in Iraqi waters in the Shatt al- Arab waterway that forms Iraq's southern border with its neighbor. It said the Iranian ambassador had been summoned.

"The British government is demanding the immediate and safe return of our people and equipment," it said in a statement.

Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.

(Additional reporting by Peter Graff and Sophie Walker in London, Aref Mohammed in Basra and Ross Colvin, Mariam Karouny and Claudia Parsons in Baghdad, and Robert Gibbons in New York).