BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb killed the governor of Muthanna province Monday, and armed men in a fleet of sport-utility vehicles kidnapped a senior government minister on a busy Baghdad street.
The attack on the governor, the second provincial leader to be slain in little more than a week, came amid continued fighting between Shiite Muslim groups competing for dominance in southern Iraq.
The bomb that killed Mohammed Ali al-Hassani, his driver and a bodyguard struck only the Muthanna governor’s armored Land Cruiser in a long motorcade traveling toward the provincial capital of Samawah. That precision suggested that a remote-controlled device was used to target the politician of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council.
Khalil Jalil Hamza, governor of neighboring Qadisiyah province and a fellow supreme council member, was killed in a similar fashion Aug. 11, stirring suspicions that both bombings were carried out by militiamen loyal to radical anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Al-Sadr’s Al Mahdi Army and the supreme council’s armed Badr Militia have been battling for control of Iraq’s oil-rich southern provinces as local elections set for 2008 approach.
The twin strikes against the governors testified to the struggle for power and riches plaguing Iraq and its potential to nullify any security improvements achieved by U.S. and Iraqi forces trying to suppress rogue militias and insurgents.
Sunni Arab extremists were suspected in the afternoon kidnapping in Baghdad of Samir Salim Attar, the deputy minister for science and technology. He and five bodyguards were taken by armed men who used at least eight SUVs to intercept Attar’s heavily defended convoy.