September 6, 2008 in Nation/World

Iraq’s Chalabi survives assassination attempt

By Ned Parker and Saif Hameed Los Angeles Times
 
Ronald Zak photo

Chalabi
(Full-size photo)

BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber tried to assassinate Ahmad Chalabi on Friday night, killing six of his guards when he rammed his car into the Shiite Muslim politician’s speeding convoy, his spokesman said.

Chalabi, who has survived at least three previous attempts on his life, was returning to his home in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour when the bomber in a sport-utility vehicle struck, spokesman Iyad Kadhim Sabti said. At least 17 others were wounded, including nine more of Chalabi’s guards, police said.

It was not clear who carried out the attack, Sabti added. The powerful blast, not far from the politician’s compound, shot a huge fireball into the sky and was heard across the capital.

Chalabi, a former exile who returned to Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, travels around Baghdad regularly in heavily-protected convoys. Until last month, he headed a committee on public services for Baghdad and served as deputy prime minister and acting oil minister in 2005 and part of 2006.

The politician, a longtime darling of Washington neoconservatives in and out of the Bush administration, provided much of the faulty intelligence on the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s weapons program that Bush used to justify the invasion. His relationship with the White House faltered after U.S. forces failed to find any evidence that Saddam had an active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons program and the information he supplied was discredited.

Chalabi ran for election on his own slate in the last national election but failed to win a seat in parliament. He has managed to stay a player in Iraq’s political arena due to his chairmanship of the country’s Debaathification commission, which purged members of Saddam’s regime from state jobs, and his ability to juggle disparate alliances. Chalabi has forged relationships with anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s populist movement, as well as some members of the U.S.-funded largely Sunni Arab “Sons of Iraq” paramilitary program.

Despite, a drop in violence in the last year, assassination attempts targeting civil servants and prominent individuals continue to occur routinely in Baghdad. Earlier Friday, gunmen with silencers shot a civilian adviser from the Iraqi defense ministry, Abdul Amir Hassan Abbas, as he drove through eastern Baghdad, police said.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email