BAGHDAD – Iraq’s parliament met in an extraordinary session of “defiance” Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, and declared it would not bow to terrorism. A bouquet of red roses and a white lily sat in the place of Mohammed Awad, the lawmaker killed in the parliament dining hall suicide bombing claimed by al-Qaida.
Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani opened the session and asked lawmakers to recite verses from the Quran in honor of Awad, whom he called a “hero.”
The unprecedented Friday meeting was called to send “a clear message to all the terrorists and all those who dare try to stop this (political) process, that we will sacrifice in order for it to continue,” said al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Muslim.
“We feel today that we are stronger than yesterday,” he said. “The parliament, government and the people are all the same – they are all in the same ship which, if it sinks, will make everyone sink.”
An al-Qaida-led amalgam of Sunni insurgents claimed one of its “knights” carried out Thursday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad’s Green Zone and warned the “monkeys in parliament” to brace for more attacks. The U.S. military revised the death toll sharply downward, saying one civilian was killed. Late into Thursday the military had said eight people were killed and 23 wounded.
While the attack was widely believed to have been an al-Qaida mission, investigators said Friday they were focusing on security guards inside and outside the parliament building.
Iraq’s Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry, which runs the police and national paramilitary force, on Friday took over security for parliament.
The U.S. military on Friday announced that three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi translators were killed in two attacks south of Baghdad. Eight soldiers were wounded.
In the worst of the two attacks, two soldiers were killed and seven wounded in an attack on their base south of the capital Thursday. The two Iraqi interpreters also died.
In an attack Friday, the military said, one soldier was killed and one wounded in a roadside bombing, also south of Baghdad.
Twenty people were killed or found dead across Iraq on Friday, with just five victims of sectarian assassinations found in the capital. That was the second-lowest daily toll since the security operation began in Baghdad on Feb. 14.
But Thursday’s bombing in the heart of Baghdad’s most secure region, coupled with the stunning destruction of one of Baghdad’s Tigris River bridges, was a heavy blow to the Bush administration’s plan to put an additional 30,000 American forces in Iraq by summer.
“It is clear we still have a long way to go to provide stability and security to Iraq,” said Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the deputy U.S. commander in Iraq. “Frankly, yesterday was a bad day, a very bad day. But we’re going to come back from that.”
Regardless of the security breach, Odierno said, U.S. forces did not intend to assume responsibility for parliament security.