BAGHDAD - With just six
weeks to go before the United States is scheduled to
hand over sovereignty to Iraq, the head of the
US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) was killed on
Monday in a suicide bomb attack, further complicating
the transition period and highlighting the unpopularity
of those Iraqis siding with the US.
Othman Mohammad, a Shi'ite also known as Izzedin Salim,
was in the last car of an IGC convoy waiting to enter
the "Green Zone" coalition headquarters in central
Baghdad when the car bomb exploded.
At least six
people were killed and scores injured as the bomb ripped
through cars and pedestrians waiting to enter the
heavily guarded compound of Saddam Hussein's former
palaces. The 25-member IGC, which is headquartered in
the Green Zone, was gathering for a meeting. Salim was
president of the IGC for the month of May and also
leader of the influential Islamic al-Dawah movement in
the southern city of Basra.
Mark Kimmit, deputy director of operations for the US
army in Iraq, told reporters at the scene that "it is
our understanding that it was a suicide car bomb".
Salim was also a writer
and served as editor of several newspapers and
magazines. He is the second member of the IGC to
be assassinated since the council was established last
July. Aqila al-Hashimi, one of three women on the body,
was shot last September when gunmen ambushed her vehicle
near her Baghdad home. Salim fled his homeland in 1980
to Kuwait. He later moved to Iran, where he remained
until Saddam Hussein was toppled from power.
Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zibari told reporters
on the sidelines of an economic forum in Jordan that the
attack would not stop preparations for the handover of
sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.
"This shows our enemies are still there and will do
anything to intimidate Iraqis to derail the political
process," he said. "This will strengthen our resolve to
continue the political process ... This will not derail
However, the IGC has been a target
since its establishment last year, and whatever its
successor is will likely face the same problems from
July 1. Typical sentiments are those expressed by the
Sunni imam at the Nidal Islam mosque in Baghdad,
Kutaibia Ama'ash: "The actions of the US are uniting
Sunni and Shi'ite. The US actions via the Governing
Council are an attempt to divide us, but the result has
been the opposite." Expressing solidarity with Iraqis
throughout his country, he added: "All of the people of
this mosque are supporting the people of Fallujah, Najaf
and Karbala. We give full support to the people
resisting the Americans."
Salim had advocated
in recent days a continued role for the IGC. United
Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has proposed abolishing
the council on June 30 and replacing it with a caretaker
government of technocrats. "We shall listen to the ideas
of Mr Brahimi, but his ideas are not compulsory for us,"
Salim said this month. "The Governing Council is the one
responsible for forming the government."
selected Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim and
civil engineer from the northern city of Mosul, to
suicide attack came soon after the US revealed that
it had officially requested South Korea to sanction the redeploying
of part of the United States Forces Korea (USFK)
to Iraq, and Seoul accepted. US Deputy
National Security Advisor Steve Hadley called South Korea's
Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon earlier on Monday, officially
asking for redeploying 4,000 US troops to Iraq, the South
Korean Yonhap News Agency reported.
the divide As strife escalates in Iraq, Sunnis
and Shi'ites appear to be uniting against the
occupation. The number of Iraqis dead in Fallujah last
month in the Sunni triangle is estimated by doctors to
be more than 800. Fighting involving Shi'ite Muslims in
the south has claimed the lives of hundreds as well,
Inter Press Service (IPS) reports.
nature of people, any action has a reaction," Imam Muad
al-Adhamy told IPS at his office at the Abu Hanifa
mosque in al-Adhamiyah in Baghdad. This mosque is the
center of the country's Sunni power. "With the Americans
attacking Najaf and Karbala [holy cities of the
Shi'ites] there is resistance, and we support this."
Asked about divisions between Sunnis and Shi'ites in
the past, Imam al-Adhamy said: "What is happening is
happening to all of Iraq. There is no difference now
between Sunni and Shi'ite, Arab and Kurd. We have all
The imam believes his followers
share this feeling. "The feelings of the people of this
mosque are the same as all Iraqis - Iraqi blood is
precious and should not be shed. But freedom needs this
blood if we cannot obtain it by peaceful means."
This sentiment echoes that of Sheikh Abdul Hadi
al-Daraji, a deputy of the embattled Shi'ite cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr. On Friday last week when Shi'ites from
across Iraq attended prayers at Sunni mosques, Sheikh
al-Daraji delivered a strong sermon at the Abu Hanifa
"We have come here to prove that the
forces of evil will never be able to detract from
Sunni-Shi'ite unity," he said. "Your enemy has come to
sow the seeds of social chaos among Sunnis and Shi'ites,
but he has failed because Islam is one."
of the congregation echoed these sentiments. "I have
given my blood for the people of Fallujah in April,"
said Abdul Aziz after the sermon at Abu Hanifa. "I will
do the same for the people in Najaf, because we are all
Iraqi. There is no Sunni or Shi'ite now, we are all
together against the Americans."
As the fighting
in Karbala continued to rage on Monday, in Baghdad
another Sunni imam at the Nidal Islam mosque, Imam
Kutaibia Ama'ash, said that "the actions of the US are
uniting Sunni and Shi'ite. The US actions via the
Governing Council are an attempt to divide us, but the
result has been the opposite."
solidarity with embattled Iraqis throughout his country,
he said: "All of the people of this mosque are
supporting the people of Fallujah, Najaf and Karbala. We
give full support to the people resisting the
A member of the mosque, Sheikh Haji
Abdul Majit, said: "They brought us a Governing Council
that loves Israel more than Iraq."
firebrand cleric Muqtada has caused some rifts within
the Shi'ite population of southern Iraq, he is said to
have a large following. After a battle in the sprawling
slum neighborhood of Sadr City in Baghdad last Sunday,
the US military used air support to destroy his
headquarters there. At the destroyed building children
chanted, "Live, live for Sadr! Americans and the
Governing Council are unbelievers!"
Mahmoud Zaidi, a cleric who is an Muqtada supporter,
said: "You see the people here? They will not stop
fighting the invaders, no matter what happens. They are
fighting the people. That is why they will never defeat
All of the clerics interviewed seem to
agree that the only solution to the ongoing violence in
Iraq is a complete withdrawal of the US military. "If
the invaders would treat people better, this would never
happen," said Imam Muad al-Adhamy. "We have been put in
a worse position than Saddam Hussein's time. Nothing is
worse than being invaded."
Now that the United
States has achieved the goal of removing Saddam, and
seen that there are no weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq, the imam said he sees no need for the US troops to
remain in Iraq. "The invaders should pull out, 100