Sadrists Call For New Elections In Iraq

By Salon Staff

Published December 26, 2011 2:54PM (EST)

BAGHDAD (AP) — The leader of a powerful anti-American political party in Iraqi parliament is calling for new elections as the country's worst political crisis in years escalates.

Bahaa al-Aaraji, the head of the Sadrists' bloc in parliament, said Monday new elections are needed because of instability in the country.

The Sadrists are loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and are partners in a Shiite-dominated government coalition with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The prime minister is currently in a political showdown with the top Sunni political figure, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, after the government issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

BAGHDAD (AP) — A suicide bomber set off a car bomb Monday at a checkpoint leading to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, killing seven people and injuring 32 others, officials said.

The attack followed a series of bombings last week that killed up to 70 people in a single day, increasing fears about Iraq's future after U.S. troops withdrew this month.

Two police officers said the bomber struck during morning rush hour, hitting one of many security barriers set up around the ministry's building. Five policemen were among the dead, they said.

Two doctors at nearby hospitals confirmed the causality figures.

"We first heard a thunderous explosion and then saw a ball of fire," said Mustafa Mohammed, 42, an employee at the nearby Ministry of Oil who was with other employees in a bus when the bomb went off.

"The car pulled over and we left it immediately to see all the area engulfed with smoke and the bodies of the injured or killed people were lying on the ground," Mohammed said.

Also Monday, a roadside bomb hit a passing army patrol in the Abu Ghraib area west of Baghdad, killing two soldiers and injuring two others, a police officer and a doctor said.

All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information.

No one has claimed responsibility for either attack, but suicide attacks and attacks targeting Iraqi security officials are usually carried out by the al-Qaida in Iraq terror group.

U.S. and some Iraqi officials have warned of a resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militants and an increase in violence after the full U.S. troop withdrawal.

Adding to Iraq's troubles is an increase in political tension stemming from a showdown between the Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and the top Sunni political leader in the country.

Al-Maliki's government has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges that he ran hit squads against government officials.

Al-Hashemi has denied the charges and said they are politically motivated.

Salon Staff

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