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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-322406 Iraq Wrap (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=2/8/2005

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=IRAQ WRAP (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-322406

BYLINE=CHALLISS McDONOUGH

DATELINE=BAGHDAD

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

HEADLINE: Deadly Blast Targets Iraqi Army; Gunmen Attack Iraqi Politician

INTRO: An explosion outside an Iraqi Army base in Baghdad (Tuesday) has killed at least 21 people. Elsewhere in the Iraqi capital, gunmen ambushed an Iraqi politician, killing two of his sons. VOA's Challiss McDonough has more from Baghdad.

TEXT: There is still some confusion over the cause of the blast outside the Muthana airfield in western Baghdad. It used to be a military airfield, but is now used as an Iraqi Army base. Most reports say a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of people waiting outside the base to enlist in the Iraqi Army. But one news agency says it was a mortar attack.

Regardless of the cause, the result was carnage. Hospital workers say many of the victims were literally torn apart by the blast.

The attack came a day after suicide bombers in two cities, Baqubah and Mosul, killed at least 27 people in attacks targeting Iraqi police.

/// OPT /// The Iraqi police and army have borne the brunt of many insurgent attacks, and some Western officials say they do not get enough training. British and U.S. officials are lobbying NATO for more money to train Iraqi security forces. /// END OPT ///

In a separate attack, gunmen sprayed the car of a controversial Iraqi politician with bullets, killing two of his sons and a bodyguard. The politician, Mithal al-Alusi, appeared shaken in television footage taken shortly after the attack, when he confirmed that his sons were dead.

Mr. Alusi heads his own party, the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation, and ran for a seat in the National Assembly in last month's election. In September, Mr. Alusi became the first Iraqi politician in years to openly visit Israel, but he received widespread condemnation at home after the trip was made public.

Mr. Alusi has survived several previous attempts on his life. Even so, there was very little security visible outside his office when VOA interviewed him there two weeks ago. When asked about it, Mr. Alusi seemed to take pride in the fact that his office is not surrounded by high concrete blast walls or regiments of police and security guards. He said it helps him stay closer to the people than other Iraqi politicians have.

/// ALUSI ACT ///

"Each Iraqi man now in very dangerous situation. Why should we be better?"

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Alusi used to be a close aide to Ahmad Chalabi, who was once supported by the Pentagon but fell out of favor with U.S. leaders. Mr. Alusi was expelled from Mr. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress party after he visited Israel to attend a counter-terrorism conference.

Mr. Alusi defended his trip to Tel Aviv and has vocally, and controversially, supported the normalization of ties between Iraq and Israel.

He told VOA that in the new Iraq there is no place for old ways of thinking. He said his main concern was doing what is in Iraq's best interest, regardless of what others in the Arab world think.

In other news, four kidnapped Egyptian telecommunications workers have been freed after two days in captivity. The company they work for says two of the men were rescued by a U.S. military patrol, while the other two escaped on their own.

There have been conflicting reports, however, about the fate of a kidnapped Italian journalist who has been missing since Friday. Several groups have published statements on the Internet, making vastly different claims, and it is impossible to verify whether any of them are legitimate. (signed)

NEB/CEM/RH



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