- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

Iraq’s parliament met in an extraordinary session of “defiance” on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, and declared it would not bow to terrorism. A bouquet of red roses and a white lily sat in the place of Mohammed Awad, the lawmaker killed a day earlier in the dining hall suicide bombing claimed by al-Qaida.

Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani opened the session and asked lawmakers to recite verses from the Quran in honor of Awad, who he called a “hero.”

The unprecedented Friday meeting was call to send “a clear message to all the terrorists and all those who dare try to stop this (political) process, that we will sacrifice in order for it to continue,” al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Muslim, said.

“We feel today that we are stronger than yesterday,” he said. “The parliament, government and the people are all the same - they are all in the same ship which, if it sinks, will make everyone sink.”

An al-Qaida-led amalgam of Sunni insurgents claimed Friday one of its “knights” carried out the suicide bombing in Baghdad’s Green Zone and warned the “monkeys in parliament” to brace for more devastating attacks. The U.S. military revised the death toll sharply downward to one dead. Late into Thursday the military had said eight people were killed and 23 wounded.

While the attack was widely believed to have been an al-Qaida mission, investigators said Friday they were focusing on security guards both inside and outside the parliament building. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry, which runs the police and national paramilitary force, took over security for parliament on Friday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said three American soldiers and two Iraqi translators were killed, and eight U.S. forces wounded in two attacks.

Only 20 people were killed or found dead across Iraq on Friday, with just five victims of sectarian assassinations found in the capital. That was the second lowest since the security operation began in Baghdad on Feb. 14.

The suicide bombing in the parliament dining hall was the second directly targeting Iraq’s power structure since March 23, when a bodyguard of Salam al-Zubaie blew himself up within feet of the deputy prime minister, the highest-ranking Sunni in the Iraqi government. Al-Zubaie was seriously wounded in the attack - also claimed by the Islamic State.

Thursday’s bombing in the very heart of Baghdad’s most secure region, coupled with the stunning destruction of one of Baghdad’s Tigris River bridges, was a heavy blow to the Bush Administration’s troop “surge” which will put an additional 30,000 American forces in Iraq by summer.

“It is clear we still have a long way to go to provide stability and security to Iraq,” said Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the deputy U.S. commander in Iraq. “Frankly yesterday was a bad day, a very bad day. But we’re going to come back from that,” he said.

Regardless of the security breach, Odierno said. U.S. forces did not intend to assume responsiblity for parliament security.

“It doesn’t help them for us to provide that security, they have to do that,” said Odierno, who declared his confidence in the Iraqi security forces.

Brig. Gen. Robert H. Holmes, deputy director of operations for U.S. Central Command, told The Associated Press in London that it was unfair to say the parliament bombing meant the failure of the U.S.-Iraqi security crackdown in Baghdad, now in its ninth week.

“That would not be a fair indictment. This incident is still under investigation. The Iraqi police or the Iraqis had responsibility for security of that target, albeit that there were lines of security around it. Ultimately it will come down to their investigation to see what happened there,” Holmes said.

Hassan al-Sunnaid, a member of the parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, told state-run Iraqiya television that three cafeteria employees were being questioned by security agencies, although it was unclear what their involvement in the bombing might have been.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella grouping of militant Sunni organizations, including al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed it authored the parliament attack. In an Internet posting, the group said it waited a day to make the announcement to give its men time to flee.

“A knight from the state of Islam … reached the heart of the Green Zone … the temporary headquarters of the mice of the infidel parliament and blew himself up among a gathering of the infidel masters,” the group said in the posting on an Islamist Web site commonly used by insurgents.

The Islamic state groups eight insurgent organizations including al-Qaida.

In a second Internet statement posted immediately after the first, the group said it scouted several locations and “after studying … we managed to reach the most fortified location of the (Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri) al-Maliki government and the crusaders.”

“The monkeys in parliament cried and screamed in horror at what they saw after an invading knight, a hero of the Islamic State … entered among them to detonate his explosive belt among the gathering of apostasy known as the parliament. Through his hand, God destroyed a group of infidels and apostates,” it said.

In the special session Friday, lawmakers took the podium one after another to denounce the bombing. One MP had his arm in sling and a woman lawmaker wore a neck brace.

“The more they (terrorists) act, the more solid we become. When they take from us one martyr, we will offer more martyrs,” Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi said. “The more they target our unity, the stronger our unity becomes.”

But the turnout was low because of a weekly Friday ban on driving.

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