Iraq culture chief, top cop escape assassination

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Iraq’s top theater 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 theater 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 theater in Baghdad, where he maintains his office, 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 theater this morning, parked my car and had just gotten out," said Mehdi, who is himself an acclaimed theater 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 theater," he added. "I never interfere in politics, I don’t know why they attacked me."

On Tuesday evening, meanwhile, 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 traveling through Kirkuk, which lies at the center 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 neighborhood," he added, noting that one asayesh, or Kurdish internal security, member died and 30 people were wounded, the majority 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.

On Thursday, meanwhile, 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 beginning of March until April 5.

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