- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005

BAGHDAD — A suicide driver detonated a car bomb outside the prime minister’s party headquarters yesterday, injuring 10 persons in a blast claimed by the al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq.

Leaders of a mostly Shi’ite Muslim faction that is expected to be a big winner in Sunday’s national elections said yesterday that they had no intention of establishing a cleric-ruled Islamic state in Iraq and that they vowed not to be dragged into a civil war by seeking revenge for Sunni extremist attacks.

The suicide bomber struck at a police checkpoint on the road leading to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord offices in central Baghdad, shaking the city center with a thunderous explosion. Mr. Allawi is a Shi’ite.

Eight policemen and two civilians were wounded, said Dr. Mudhar Abdul-Hussein of Yarmouk Hospital.

Al Qaeda’s wing in Iraq said in a Web posting that “one of the young lions in the suicide regiment” carried out the attack against the party office of Mr. Allawi, “the agent of the Jews and the Christians.”

The attacks occurred six days before Iraq’s crucial national elections, the first since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. Insurgents have condemned the elections and vowed to disrupt them.

In an audiotape posted Sunday on the Web, a speaker claiming to be Abu Musab Zarqawi declared “fierce war” on the “evil principle of democracy” and said anyone who takes part in next weekend’s Iraqi elections would be considered “an infidel.”

The Jordanian-born Zarqawi heads al Qaeda in Iraq, the terror network’s local affiliate. The group is behind many of the car bombings, beheadings, assassinations and other attacks plaguing Iraq.

A top lieutenant of Zarqawi’s terror group, Sami Mohammed Ali Said al-Jaaf, also known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, was arrested during a raid in Baghdad on Jan. 15, the government said yesterday.

Zarqawi has been trying to incite Sunni Muslims against the Shi’ite majority, playing on Sunni fears that they will lose the privileged position they have enjoyed for generations.

In a press conference, politicians running on a Shi’ite clerical-endorsed ticket, the United Iraqi Alliance, sought to play down fears of an Iranian-style Shi’ite state.

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