Suicide bomber kills six in eastern Baghdad

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt today in a line of people waiting to receive government payments, killing six other people and wounding about 30, including children.

Eight other people were killed in attacks elsewhere, including five members of a Shiite religious party gunned down in Baqouba and three policemen who died in separate incidents in Baghdad and Iskandariyah.

The suicide attack occurred in the mostly Shiite eastern district of New Baghdad at 9.40am local time as people lined up at a bank to receive government checks in compensation for food rations which were incomplete in the past few months.

Police Lt. Ali Abbas said the attacker joined the line and blew himself up while security guards were searching people before allowing them to enter the bank. The wounded included three children and nine women, he said.

Elsewhere, gunmen killed three brothers and two of their sons in an attack on a street in Baqouba, 35 miles north-east of Baghdad, Diyala police’s Joint Co-ordination Centre said.

All five were identified by police as members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country’s leading Shiite political party, police said.

A roadside bomb attack in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, killed two policemen and wounded another, said Babil police’s information office. Gunmen shot dead an Iraqi policeman protecting electricity generating facilities near a hospital in eastern Baghdad’s Sadr City, police said.

Also today, Iraq’s former electricity minister, Ayham al-Samarie, escaped injury when a roadside bomb exploded near his three-vehicle convoy in Baghdad, but two bodyguards were wounded, said police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq.

The bomb targeted the convoy of al-Samarie, a dual Iraqi-US citizen, as it passed through Baghdad's western Mansour district, said Mohammed al-Jibouri, an official at the ex-minister’s office. The motive for the attack was not immediately clear.

Al-Samarie, a Sunni Arab political figure, was a member of the transitional government established after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime. Al-Samarie has said he maintains contacts with various Sunni Arab insurgents and has offered to mediate an end to the insurgency.

Another roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad’s south-western Baiyaa neighbourhood targeting an Iraqi police patrol, wounding two policemen, police said.

The attacks occurred one day after Shiite politicians chose Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for another term, a move that was received with mixed reactions from potential coalition partners.

Kurdish politicians expressed some disappointment, and Sunnis complained that al-Jaafari was unable to rein in Shiite-led security services accused of abuses against Sunnis.

The US hopes Iraqi authorities can form a national unity government comprising Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds and curb the incessant violence that has plagued the country since Saddam’s fall in 2003.

Meanwhile, the trial of Saddam Hussein was due to resume today, with his lawyers saying the former president, his seven co-defendants and chosen defence team will boycott the session over complaints about judge running the court.

The hearing will mark the latest troubled chapter in the trial of Saddam and his co-defendants for the killing of nearly 150 Shiite Muslims after the former ruler survived a 1982 assassination attempt in the town of Dujail north of Baghdad.

Saddam’s defence has called for the replacement of the trial’s new chief judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd who took over last month after his predecessor stepped down amid criticism over his handling of the trial.

The defence claims that Abdel-Rahman is unfit to try the case because he was sentenced to life in absentia in the 1970s for anti-state activity. Saddam became president in 1979, but was Iraq’s most powerful man for several years before that.

In his first session in charge on January 29, Abdel-Rahman tried to restore the authority of the court which had witnessed numerous outbursts from Saddam and his half brother Barzan Ibrahim, Iraq’s former intelligence chief.

The judge ejected one defence lawyer, prompting the rest to leave in protest. Saddam and three co-defendants were also allowed to leave or forcibly removed, and the judge appointed replacement defence lawyers.

In the following session on February 1, only three defendants attended; none showed up the next day.

Today’s session is expected to include testimony from former regime figures and the presentation of documents allegedly indicating the ousted ruler’s knowledge of the torture and execution of Shiite Muslims from Dujail, court officials have said.

Prosecutors are also expected to submit the first of hundreds of documents implicating Saddam in every step of the investigation, torture and death of the Shiites.

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