Iraq's oldest legislator killed
This is the second political assassination this week.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Bombs killed the country's oldest legislator and two American soldiers Tuesday on the first anniversary of Iraq's sovereignty -- a day the president described as "blessed" despite the persistent violence.
More than a dozen Iraqis also were killed and U.S. and Iraqi troops launched Operation Sword aimed at communities along the Euphrates River, their third major anti-insurgency campaign in Anbar province.
The campaigns have failed to stem a Sunni-dominated insurgency that has killed more than 1,360 people -- mostly civilians and Iraqi forces -- since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite-dominated government April 28.
President Jalal Talabani nevertheless praised the anniversary of the official transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis because it led to the Jan. 30 election, the country's first free balloting in decades.
"This is a blessed day which saw the restoration of independence and national sovereignty," Talabani said after meeting U.S. and British envoys. "But we think that the restoration of independence started after the epic, the legend, of the elections."
Those elections, however, were boycotted by the vast majority of Sunni Arabs -- either because of unwillingness or fear of the insurgency they now dominate.
Relentless attacks since al-Jaafari's government took office have sparked an escalation of sectarian tensions and fears of civil war.
National Assembly legislator Sheik Dhari Ali al-Fayadh, his son, and two bodyguards were killed when a suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into theirs as they traveled to parliament from their farm in Rashidiya, 20 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Al-Fayadh, a Shiite in his late 80s, was the eldest member of the new parliament and had acted as temporary speaker. He belonged to the country's largest Shiite political party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the senior partner in the governing coalition.
Twice in one week
It marked the second political assassination in a week, coming after the June 22 killing of a prominent Sunni Arab who had been a candidate to join a committee drafting Iraq's constitution.
Al-Qaida in Iraq, which has declared war on Shiites, claimed responsibility for al-Fayadh's assassination on an Islamic Web site. The statement's authenticity could not be verified.
Talabani said the country would not be deterred by political assassinations and its security forces were working to eradicate the insurgency.
"We think that the Iraqi forces, police and army, have managed to clear many areas of terrorists and scored successes, but they are still at the beginning and will continue working. We do not doubt that the rebels will also try to retaliate. Their tactics are well-known such as car bombs and assassinations of all whom they do not like," Talabani said.
Also Tuesday, a U.S. soldier died in a suicide car bomb blast in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, and another soldier was killed by a car bomb in Tikrit, the military said. At least 1,743 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Five people were killed in a car bomb explosion in Baqouba, north of Baghdad, police said.