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The World

Chalabi survives attempt on his life

A suicide bomber kills six of the controversial Iraqi figure's guards.

September 06, 2008|Ned Parker and Saif Hameed | Times Staff Writers

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber tried to assassinate politician Ahmad Chalabi on Friday night, killing six of his guards when he rammed his car into the Shiite Muslim politician's speeding convoy, Chalabi's spokesman said.

Chalabi, who has survived at least three previous attempts on his life, was returning to his home in the west Baghdad district of Mansour when the bomber in a sport utility vehicle struck, spokesman Iyad Kadhim Sabti said. At least 17 people were wounded, including nine of Chalabi's guards, police said. Chalabi was unharmed.

It was not clear who was behind the attack, Sabti added. The blast, not far from the politician's compound, was heard across the capital.

Chalabi, a former exile who returned to Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, travels around Baghdad regularly in heavily protected convoys. Until last month, he headed a committee on public services for the capital, and had served during parts of 2005 and 2006 as deputy prime minister and acting oil minister.

A longtime darling of Washington neoconservatives in and out of the Bush administration, Chalabi provided much of the faulty intelligence on the late dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons program that President Bush used to justify the invasion. His relationship with the White House faltered after U.S. forces failed to find any evidence that Hussein had an active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons program and the information Chalabi supplied was discredited.

Chalabi ran for election on his own slate in Iraq's last national balloting but failed to win a seat in parliament. He has managed to remain a player in Iraq's political arena because of his chairmanship of the country's de-Baathification commission, which purged members of Hussein's regime from state jobs, and his ability to juggle disparate alliances. Chalabi has forged relationships with anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's populist movement, as well as some members of the largely Sunni Arab, U.S.-funded Sons of Iraq paramilitary program.

Despite a drop in violence in the last year, assassination attempts targeting civil servants and prominent individuals continue to occur routinely in Baghdad. Earlier Friday, gunmen with silencers killed a civilian advisor to the Defense Ministry, Abdul Amir Hassan Abbas, as he drove through east Baghdad, police said.

Also Friday, the government said it would question U.S. officials about allegations, in a new book by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, that America has been spying on Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

"If it is true, if it is a fact, it reflects that there is no trust and it reflects also that the institutions in the United States are used to spy on their friends and their enemies in the same way," government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said in an e-mailed statement.

He warned that the news could imperil future relations with the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. "We will raise this with the American side and we will ask for an explanation," he said.

The allegations were first reported by the Washington Post on Friday in an article about Woodward's book, "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008."

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ned.parker@latimes.com

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