- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2010

BAGHDAD | Several bombs exploded Sunday near a house linked to a prominent Sunni figure who ran in this month’s parliamentary elections in Iraq, killing five people and wounding 26 others, a police official said.

The attack adds to fears of postelection violence as the bitter election rivals enter what are expected to be drawn-out talks on forming the next government that will rule Iraq as U.S. troops leave by the end of 2011.

Sunday’s blasts were detonated in the town of Qaim, about 200 miles west of Baghdad and on the border with Syria, the police official said.

The first bomb, planted at a house under construction, went off at 7 a.m. in a busy area of Qaim.

As onlookers gathered, four more bombs hidden in trash littered around the site detonated, causing the casualties.

The official said the house belongs to a brother of Sheik Murdhi Muhammad al-Mahalawi, a Sunni candidate who ran on the Iraqiya list led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the top vote-getter in the March 7 balloting.

Neither Mr. al-Mahalawi’s brother nor any construction workers were at the site when the bombs went off, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

Initially, the official had said the house belonged to Mr. al-Mahalawi but later both he and a family member said it belonged to the candidate’s brother, Turki.

The family member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fears for personal safety, said two of Mr. al-Mahalawi’s cousins, who live next door, died in the blasts.

The win in March 7 parliamentary elections by Mr. Allawi’s secular bloc, which got 91 seats, two seats more than Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s group, reflected an extraordinarily close race.

Mr. Allawi’s road to regaining the premiership is not certain. Mr. al-Maliki angrily denounced the election outcome and his supporters have vowed to fight the results.

Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition drew on support from Sunnis frustrated with the Shiite-dominated government, which they say has incited sectarian tensions and is too closely aligned with neighboring Iran.

Because both Mr. al-Maliki and Mr. Allawi’s blocs are far short of the 163-seat majority needed to form a government alone, a Shi’ite religious coalition and the U.S.-allied Kurds are likely to be kingmakers in any future government.

In a worrying sign of the sectarian tensions the elections have stirred up, a Sunni leader in a Baghdad neighborhood who on Friday night celebrated Mr. Allawi’s win by passing out candy to well-wishers was killed by a sniper Saturday morning, police and hospital officials said.

At the Sunni leader’s funeral on Sunday, members of his militia, known as Sons of Iraq, walked alongside mourners bearing the casket, which was draped in an Iraqi flag, firing gunshots into the air.

Later Sunday, a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi army patrol in a Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing one soldier and wounding five others, police said.

After the names of the candidates elected for the 325-seat parliament are published in daily newspapers, political blocs have three days to appeal the results.

The results will not be final until certified by the Supreme Court.

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