- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi troops launched Operation Sword aimed at communities along the Euphrates River, their third major anti-insurgency campaign in Anbar province, as bombs killed the country’s oldest legislator and two American soldiers on the first anniversary of Iraq’s restored sovereignty yesterday.

The military campaigns have failed to stem a Sunni-dominated insurgency that has killed more than 1,360 persons — mostly civilians and Iraqi forces — since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shi’ite-dominated government April 28.

President Jalal Talabani nevertheless praised the anniversary of the official transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis because it led to the Jan. 30 election, the country’s first free balloting in decades.

“This is a blessed day, which saw the restoration of independence and national sovereignty,” Mr. Talabani said after meeting U.S. and British envoys. “But we think that the restoration of independence started after the epic, the legend, of the elections.”

National Assembly legislator Sheik Dhari Ali al-Fayadh, his son, and two bodyguards were killed when a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into theirs as they traveled to parliament from their farm in Rashidiya, 20 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Mr. Al-Fayadh, a Shi’ite in his late 80s, was the eldest member of the new parliament and had acted as temporary speaker. He belonged to the country’s largest Shi’ite political party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the senior partner in the governing coalition.

It marked the second political assassination in a week, coming after the June 22 killing of a prominent Sunni Arab who had been a candidate to join a committee drafting Iraq’s constitution.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has declared war on Shi’ites, claimed responsibility for Mr. Al-Fayadh’s assassination on an Islamic Web site.

Also yesterday, a U.S. soldier died in a suicide car-bomb blast in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, and another soldier was killed by a car bomb in Tikrit, the military said.

Five persons were killed in a car-bomb explosion in Baqouba, north of Baghdad, police said.

American soldiers reportedly killed an Iraqi news executive when he did not pull over as an American convoy passed in Baghdad, said Dr. Muhanad Jawad of Yarmouk Hospital. Ahmed Wael Bakri worked as a director at Al Sharqiya TV.

The U.S. military said it was investigating. Mr. Bakri was the third Iraqi journalist reportedly killed in similar incidents in the past week.

Meanwhile, efforts to include more Sunni Arabs in the political process suffered another setback yesterday when parliament again postponed setting up an expanded committee to draft the constitution — which must be ready by Aug. 15 so as to be approved by referendum in October.

The postponement came after the committee said Sunni leaders, who nominated 15 representatives for the 71-member body, failed to endorse the list.

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