BAGHDAD – Iraq’s prime minister was misunderstood when he said the Americans could leave “any time they want,” an aide said Sunday, as politicians moved to end a pair of boycotts that are holding up work on crucial political reforms sought by Washington.
In Baghdad, a car bomb hit a central square in a Shiite neighborhood, killing 10 people and wounding 25. Police said 22 bullet-riddled bodies were found across the capital Sunday, apparent victims of sectarian death squads.
The U.S. military said an American soldier from the 13th Sustainment Command was killed Saturday when a bomb exploded near his supply convoy near Baghdad.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters Saturday that the Iraqi army and police were capable of maintaining security when American troops leave.
“We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want,” al-Maliki said.
On Sunday, al-Maliki’s adviser Yassin Majid said that the prime minister meant that efforts to bolster Iraq’s security forces would continue “side-by-side with the withdrawal.”
Majid urged the United States to continue building up Iraqi forces so they would be ready whenever the White House orders a troop withdrawal.
Legislation has stalled in part because of separate boycotts by Sunni legislators and Shiite lawmakers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Negotiations have been under way to convince both blocs to return during Monday’s scheduled parliamentary session.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, a Sunni leader, met Sunday with al-Maliki to discuss the Sunni boycott, which began last month following the ouster of the Sunni speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.
After the meeting, al-Dulaimi’s spokesman, Muhannad al-Issawi, said that the boycott would continue, and if the speaker were replaced, the decision should be made by the Sunnis and not imposed by Shiites and Kurds.
But al-Dulaimi was more optimistic about a settlement that would allow the Sunnis to return.
“Things are, God willing, on their way to be resolved,” al-Dulaimi said. “The pending issue of al-Mashhadani and that of the minister of culture will be solved by the end of the week, and things will go back to their normal course.”
The car bomb attack came in Hussein Square, a popular site of takeout restaurants in the central Baghdad district of Karradah.
The afternoon blast ripped through nearby stalls and shops, killing 10 and wounding 25, according to officials at the two hospitals where the victims were taken.
In northern Iraq, gunmen ambushed a convoy of border guards, killing six of them and a civilian, a border guard commander said. When reinforcements pulled in, another guard died in the clash, which took place in the Kani Khal area, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad. The commander said the Sunni extremist group Ansar al-Islam was believed to be behind the attack.
Shootings in the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk and several areas south of Baghdad killed eight people, according to police. Among these were the wife and son of a city council chief, slain outside their home.