Iraq Blast Kills Al-Sadr Official
By Associated Press
BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb killed a prominent member of Muqtada al-Sadr’s political movement Thursday, raising fears of new internal Shiite bloodshed ahead of regional elections expected in January.
The victim’s allies blamed U.S. and Iraqi forces for the blast. Suspicion also fell on Shiite splinter groups — some with suspected links to Iran, which has sheltered al-Sadr for nearly 18 months.
Saleh al-Auqaeili, considered a moderate within al-Sadr’s movement, was traveling in a convoy with other Shiite lawmakers when the bombing occurred about 200 yards from an Iraqi army checkpoint in mostly Shiite eastern Baghdad, a colleague said.
Al-Auqaeili died at a hospital, Sadrist spokesman Ahmed al- Massoudi said. One commuter on a motorcycle was also killed in the blast, police said.
Al-Sadr’s followers have long opposed the U.S. military presence in Iraq, and some of them were quick to blame the Americans and their Iraqi allies, citing the movement’s opposition to a U.S.- Iraqi security agreement that has been under negotiation for months.
“The occupation forces sent us a message by staging this attack because of our stance against the agreement,” said al-Massoudi, the Sadrist spokesman.
Later, however, the Sadrist political department called the killing a “terrorist act of criminal gangs,” a phrase often used to describe renegade Shiite militants that the U.S. believes are trained and armed by Iran. Tehran denies links to Iraqi Shiite militants.
Maj. Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Baghdad command, said the attack appeared to have been carried out by “unaligned” Shiite groups.
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