At least 10 killed in blast in government meeting hall.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Iraq's Shi'ite vice president narrowly escaped assassination as a blast ripped through a government meeting hall just hours after it was searched by US teams with bomb-sniffing dogs. At least 10 people were killed.
Adel Abdul-Mahdi was slightly wounded in Monday's explosion, which splintered chairs, destroyed a speakers' podium and sent a chilling message that suspected Sunni militants can strike anywhere despite a major security crackdown across Baghdad.
As US forces sealed off the area around the municipal building, investigators grappled with the troubling question of how the bomb was smuggled into the ministry of public works - a seven-story structure with crack surveillance systems from its days as offices for Saddam Hussein's feared intelligence service.
The bomb - possibly hidden in the podium - went off moments after the minister for public works finished a speech in the third-floor chamber, witnesses said. Abdul-Mahdi had made a welcoming address a few minutes earlier, raising speculation the bomb could have been on a timer-trigger that missed the vice president by sheer luck.
Among those killed were several ministry employees, police said. More than 25 were wounded, including the public works minister, Riyad Gharib.
Abdul-Mahdi - smothered by his bodyguards in an instant - suffered minor leg injuries and was hospitalized for tests, his office said. He was later released.
Suspicion for the attack fell on Sunni insurgents, who have waged nonstop bombings and attacks against Iraq's majority Shi'ites for cooperating with the US-backed government.
Adbul-Mahdi is one of two vice presidents. The other, Tariq al-Hashemi, is Sunni.
An Associated Press photographer witnessed security forces hustling a man from the building, but there were no immediate reports of any arrests.
The bombing of the municipal building was another blow to claims by US and Iraqi forces that a nearly 2-week-old security sweep across Baghdad is making headway. On Sunday, more than 40 people were killed in a suicide blast at a mostly Shi'ite college.
Criticism of the security plan is getting louder.
Al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice president, told the AP the security plan does not treat all groups equally - an apparent reference to Sunni complaints that they are facing the most pressure and attention.
"Up to now, legal procedures have not been observed," he said in an interview. "The human rights of Iraqis have not been respected as they should be."
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