Suicide bomber kills 30 at Sunni tribal parley in Iraq

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 2, 2009 

BAGHDAD — A man wearing a suicide vest attacked an informal reconciliation meeting hosted by a Sunni tribal leader south of Baghdad Friday, killing up to 30 people and injuring as many as 110, police said.

Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Saleh al Qaraghuli hosted the lunch meeting for his cousins and several other tribal leaders from the town of Youssifiyah south of Baghdad. It was not clear whether any of the tribal leaders was killed. Sheikh Saleh was wounded, an Iraqi army official said.

Iraqi officials identified the attacker as Ameen Ahmed Edan al Qaraghuli, a member of Sheikh Saleh's tribe.

An Iraqi army officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the suspect had been detained at Camp Bucca, a U.S. military prison near Baghdad, as recently as two months ago. The U.S. military could not immediately confirm that assertion.

The Iraqi officer said the suspect attended Sheikh Saleh's meeting then left for his home nearby. He returned through Sheikh Saleh's back door with a suicide vest, detonating it about 2 p.m. as the host was seeing off his guests.

The Shiite-led Iraqi government is trying to reach an accommodation with its former Sunni enemies throughout the county as part of a reconciliation campaign, backed by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. Sheikh Saleh undertook Friday's meeting on his own accord to give tribal leaders an opportunity to bring peace to neighborhoods without assistance from the central government.

Mohammed Salman, head of a national reconciliation committee that answers to Maliki, said the attacker wasn't targeting Iraqi reconciliation so much as trying to kill as many people as possible. "Now, after terrorists have been defeated, I believe they are...trying to use any breach through which they can cause great numbers of casualties," he said.

He likened the blast to a Dec. 27 car bomb in Baghdad's Kadhemiyah neighborhood that killed 24 people.

"They are trying to say 'We are here,'" he said.

The attack took place one day after Iraq formally reclaimed its sovereignty from the U.S. following more than five years of occupation. Under the new security pact, Iraq has significantly more authority and U.S. forces are required to work closely with their Iraqi counterparts.

Early reports from the U.S. military said 23 people died and 44 people were killed in the attack at the tribal meeting, but American officials had not arrived at the scene at the time of that estimate. The Iraqi army put the casualty estimate at 24 dead and 35 wounded.

(Dulaimy is a McClatchy special correspondent in Baghdad. Ashton reports for the Modesto (Calif.) Bee)

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