BAGHDAD — Two more tribal leaders were assassinated in Baghdad on Tuesday, a day after a bombing at a hotel downtown killed 13 people, including members of a Sunni Muslim council that recently had allied with U.S. forces fighting Sunni insurgents linked to al Qaida.
Sheik Hamid Abdul Farhan al Shujairi, a Sunni, was shot in a mainly Sunni area of Baghdad, police said. He reportedly had attended a conference several weeks ago supporting the government and fighting insurgents.
Gunmen murdered Hamid Abid Sarhan al Shjiri, the sheik of the mixed Sunni-Shiite Shijirat tribe, while he sat in his car in the capital's southern al Saidiyah neighborhood.
The deaths came as Iraqi authorities tried to determine how a bomber made it through a tight security cordon Monday at the Mansour Hotel and detonated explosives that killed at least six members of the Anbar Salvation Council, a Sunni tribal coalition that had been cooperating with U.S. and Iraqi government forces.
Among the dead was Sheik Fasal al Gaood, a council leader and former governor of Anbar province who'd long advocated working with the United States before the U.S. military finally embraced his group late last year.
An al Qaida-affiliated group in Egypt claimed responsibility for the blast, which devastated the Mansour's lobby, where Gaood and other Sunnis had gathered to meet with Shiite Muslim tribal leaders. Witnesses said they thought that a suicide bomber had set off the charge, though the scale of the destruction suggested that the bomber may have had assistance.
U.S. soldiers don't protect the Mansour, which is outside the fortified Green Zone. The Chinese Embassy and the offices of some news organizations, including CBS News, are housed at the hotel.
Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. spokesman, said he couldn't say for certain whether American officials knew that such key allies were planning to gather at the hotel. He said U.S. officials would consider allowing similar meetings in the Green Zone, if tribal leaders wished.
But he said that even that wouldn't guarantee the safety of American allies.
"We can't guarantee that (a suicide bombing of allies) won't happen in the future," Garver said. "A suicide bomber with a suicide vest, if that's what it was, is hard to stop."
Also on Tuesday, Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for the minister of culture, a Sunni, on charges that he'd ordered an assassination attempt against a more moderate Sunni politician more than two years ago.
Culture Minister Asad Kamal al Hashimi wasn't at home when police raided his house, and his whereabouts were unknown. His party, the hard-line Congress of the People of Iraq, condemned the warrant and accused the Shiite-dominated government of "fabricating lies to exclude Sunni politicians and officials from the Iraqi arena."
Hashimi is the first full member of the Cabinet to be accused of directing violence in Iraq, although Iraqi authorities have arrested other senior officials, including the deputy health minister, who was linked to radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr's Shiite militiamen.
Authorities said two suspected militants had named Hashimi as the mastermind of an ambush on Feb. 8, 2005, against then-parliamentary candidate Mithal al Alusi. Alusi, who'd won notoriety in 2004 for traveling to a security conference in Israel, escaped unharmed, but two of his sons were killed.
(Drummond reports for The Charlotte Observer.)