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Sunni offices hit by blast

The Baltimore Sun

BAGHDAD - A leading Sunni political party's headquarters in western Iraq was blown up early yesterday morning. And in southern Iraq, where Shiite factions are fighting one another, a powerful bomb was discovered on the road to an important Shiite shrine.

Both episodes pointed to probable tensions in the months ahead of provincial elections in which factions are fighting hard to ensure that they have a place at the political table.

The explosion of the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, happened about 6 a.m., according to witnesses, who said the American military had been near the site of the bombing until about an hour before the detonation.

The Fallujah City Council blamed the Americans for the blast, saying it had also damaged a health center next door. Iraqi Islamic Party members were more circumspect.

"We cannot accuse anyone because we do not have enough information," said Abid al-Kareem al-Sammaraie, an Iraqi Islamic Party member who serves in Parliament.

There is a competition for power among Sunni factions in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located. For months, there has been an all but open conflict between the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Awakening Councils, pro-American groups led by tribal leaders who are beginning to organize to compete in the elections.

Separately, in southern Iraq where Shiite factions are involved in an internecine power struggle, an improvised explosive device was found on the road to a Shiite shrine, according to local police.

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