- The Washington Times
Monday, August 20, 2007

BAGHDAD (AP) — A roadside bomb today killed the governor of the predominantly Shi’ite Muthanna province, police said. It was the second assassination of a top provincial official in just over a week.

Police blamed the Mahdi Army, which is nominally loyal to radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and has been involved in several recent clashes with its political rivals.

Two bombings also struck the Shi’ite district of Sadr City and a busy market district elsewhere in Baghdad, killing at least six people and wounding more than 20.

Sheik al-Sadr, meanwhile, predicted that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is nearing its end, tainted by its close work with U.S. forces, a British newspaper reported.

Mr. al-Maliki arrived in Syria for his first visit to the neighboring country since he took office in May 2006. It comes amid U.S. charges that Syria is allowing foreign fighters to cross its borders as Damascus struggles with an influx of Iraqi refugees.

“We will discuss the serious security file and its challenges, which concern not only Iraq but the whole region. We will discuss the Iraqi community and immigrants in Syria and the ways to provide them with services,” Mr. al-Maliki said.

Muthanna Gov. Mohammed Ali al-Hassani was killed when the sport utility vehicle in which he was riding was struck by a bomb about 9 a.m., shortly after the convoy left his home in Rumaitha for his office in the provincial capital of Samawah, about 230 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Mr. al-Hassani, 52, his driver and a guard were killed, police said.

A curfew was immediately clamped on Samawah and new checkpoints erected.

On Aug. 11, the governor and police chief of another southern province, Qadasiyah, also were killed in a roadside bombing.

Both governors were members of the influential Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, whose loyalists have been fighting the Mahdi Army militia for control of the oil-rich south as British-led forces gradually withdraw.

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