Iraq culture chief, top cop escape assassination

BAGHDAD, Salam Faraj- Iraq's top theatre and film official narrowly escaped assassination on Wednesday when a magnetic "sticky bomb" affixed to his car detonated shortly after he parked it, he told AFP.
The attack against Shafiq al-Mehdi, the general director for cinema and theatre in the culture ministry, came just hours after the attempted killing of a top police chief in north Iraq, the latest in a spate of assassination attempts here in recent weeks.

Mehdi was walking up the steps of the national theatre in Baghdad, where his office is located, when the bomb went off on Wednesday morning, badly damaging the driver's side of his car.
His two bodyguards were wounded as a result of the blast, an interior ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
"I arrived at the national theatre this morning, parked my car and had just gotten out," said Mehdi, who is himself an acclaimed theatre director. "Moments later, as I was walking up the steps, the car blew up."
"I am an independent academic -- all my work is for art and theatre," he added. "I never interfere in politics, I don't know why they attacked me."
On Tuesday evening the deputy police chief of Kirkuk province escaped an assassination attempt that involved four explosions in the oil-rich northern city.
One Kurdish security officer was killed and 30 people were injured.
Major General Torhan Abdulrahman Yusuf had been travelling through Kirkuk, which lies at the centre of a tract of disputed territory that is claimed by both the central government and Kurdish regional authorities, when a bomb detonated, he said.
"We tried to inspect the area after the explosion, but another bomb went off in the same place, so I left immediately," he told AFP.
"Shortly after leaving, two more bombs exploded in the same neighbourhood," he said, adding that an asayesh, or Kurdish internal security member, died and 30 people were wounded, most of them police officers.
The assassination bids are the latest in an apparent trend.
On Friday, a senior official in Iraq's foreign ministry was shot dead in north Baghdad and a police departmental chief was wounded by men using silenced pistols.
In separate incidents a day later, the head of Iraq's tax agency and an army lieutenant colonel were killed -- again by gunmen using silencers.
Last Thursday the Islamic State of Iraq, Al-Qaeda's front group in the country, posted a statement on the Internet jihadist forum Honein, claiming to have carried out 62 "operations" from the onset of March until April 5.
Also on Wednesday, separate roadside bombs in the east and centre of Baghdad wounded six civilians, an interior ministry official said.
Violence has dropped off dramatically in Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common, especially in the capital. A total of 247 people died in violence in March, according to official figures.

Wednesday, April 27th 2011
Salam Faraj

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