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Gunmen kill brother of Iraqi vice president

Assassination attempt injures top trade official

BAGHDAD -- Gunmen killed the brother of Iraq's Shi'ite vice president yesterday and a top trade ministry official escaped assassination in another part of the capital, while the death toll rose to 30 in a major truck bombing that occurred Saturday. A US Marine was fatally injured in another bombing.

Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi, brother of Vice President Adil Abdul- Mahdi, died along with his driver when a vehicle pulled alongside their car on bustling Palestine Street about 7:45 a.m. and gunmen inside opened fire. Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi was en route to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's office, where he served as an adviser, two aides to the vice president said.

Later yesterday, a top official in the Ministry of Trade, Qais Dawood Hasan, was wounded and two of his bodyguards were killed when gunmen ambushed their convoy in the upscale Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour, scene of several high-profile kidnappings and armed attacks on government officials and foreigners. Five other bodyguards and a bystander were injured, police said.

The US command also announced yesterday that a Marine died of injuries from the day before in a roadside bombing near Baghdad. At least 2,016 members of the US military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Elsewhere, an Iraqi border guard was killed and seven other Iraqi security personnel were wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle at a checkpoint in Sinjar near the border with Syria, Dr. Fadhil Abdul- Kareem said.

A roadside bomb destroyed one of several oil tanker trucks yesterday on a main road south of Baghdad, sending a fireball up over the area and killing the two men inside, police Captain Ibrahim Abdul-Ridha said. Four civilian passersby were wounded.

A roadside bomb killed a farmer on his tractor and seriously wounded two other civilians in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, police Captain Laith Mohammed said. A drive-by shooting in the capital killed two construction workers and wounded three.

A statement posted on an Islamic website claimed responsibility for the slaying of the vice president's brother in the name of Iraq's most dreaded terror group, Al Qaeda in Iraq. The claim could not be verified. There was no claim for the attack on the trade ministry official.

Ghalib Abdul-Mahdi's brother is one of Iraq's two vice presidents -- one a Sunni and the other a Shi'ite -- and the killing appeared part of an escalating campaign of violence between members of the rival religious communities.

Late yesterday, police found the bodies of 11 unidentified men -- blindfolded, hands bound, and with gunshots in the head -- in a village near Baghdad where Sunnis and Shi'ites clashed three days ago. Fourteen Shi'ite militiamen and one policeman were killed.

Sectarian rivalry seemed to be behind Saturday's truck bomb attack against Shi'ite civilians in the farming village of Huweder about 45 miles northeast of Baghdad. The blast occurred about sundown when a bomb hidden in a truck packed with dates exploded in the center of the village.

The death toll from the attack rose yesterday to 30 when four more victims died of their injuries, according to Dr. Ahmed Fouad of Baqubah General Hospital. Forty-one people remained hospitalized, he said.

Shi'ite civilians are frequently targets of Sunni extremists who consider members of the majority religious community to be heretics and American collaborators. Iraq's security services are staffed mainly by Shi'ites and Kurds -- two groups that were suppressed under ousted leader Saddam Hussein but dominate the current government.

In a statement yesterday, the Iraqi Islamic Party, a mostly Sunni Arab group, condemned the Huweder bombing, saying such bloodshed could trigger sectarian civil war. But the statement also alleged that a radical Shi'ite militia had been staging attacks against Sunnis in the same area, kidnapping dozens of Sunnis in recent days.

''The Iraqi Islamic Party condemns these acts, and calls for national dialogue to thwart the attempts to cause sedition," the statement said.

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