Mahdi, Minister of Public Works, lightly wounded after bomb detonates in Public Works ministry
An explosion at the Ministry of Public Works nearly assassinated Adel Abdul Mahdi, one of Iraq’s two Vice Presidents, as well as Riad Ghraib, the Minister of Public Works. Twelve were killed and 42 wounded after a bomb placed in the ceiling of a ministry’s conference room. Mahdi and Ghraig were both “lightly wounded” in the explosion, and were treated for “scratches” at U.S. military hospital.
The bombing was an inside job. “The explosion happened when the party arrived at the meeting room,” reports the BBC. The bomb would have to have been planted by someone working inside the Ministry of Public Works, and the culprits would have needed to know the schedules of Vice President Mahdi and Minister Ghraib to properly time the attack.
It is unknown if the bomb was set on a timer or ‘command detonated’ – triggered by someone flipping a switch or using a cell phone. A cell phone activated trigger was very likely used. The bomb was detonated as both ministers were in the conference room, making the likelihood that someone inside the building and near or participating in the conference triggered the detonation.
The assassination of Vice President Mahdi would have serious political rammifications inside the Iraqi political scene. Mahdi is an influencial politician, and is next in line to succeed President Talibani in the event of his death or resignation. Mahdi, an economist who was educated in the West, is an influencial leader within the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Mahdi was believed to have been next in line for the position of Prime Minister last year during negotiations to for the Iraqi government, but the United Iraqi Alliance chose Nouri al-Maliki. He lost by one vote, after Muqtada al-Sadr backed Maliki.
There is no indication at this time on who conducted the attack. Sunni insurgents and al Qaeda have infiltrated the Iraqi government, and the assassination of Mahdi would serve to stoke the sectarian fires. al Qaeda is attempting to destroy the new Iraq security measures and bring down the government with a campaign of suicide and vehicle bombings.
The attack could also have been carried out by Mahdi’s political enemies within the Shia community, such as Muqtada al-Sadr, who is in a self imposed exile in Iran. The assassination of a prominent Shia politician would help promote Sadr’s image as protector of the Shia, and allow him to return to Iraq unnopposed. Sadr recently stated the Baghdad security plan was doomed to fail, and withdrew his support of the security operation. The assassination of Mahdi would help build his case, allow him to take advantage of the political divisions, and reactivate the Shia death squads of the Mahdi Army.