Iraqi Dep. PM Hurt by Suicide Bomb

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It was a gorgeous spring day in Baghdad today. The sun was out. Friday is the first day of the weekend, so many families ate barbequed lamb skewers in their backyard gardens. But as the sun started to wane, reality returned and, as is the unfortunate custom here, unsettling news started coming over the airwaves. A suicide bomber blew himself up as a deputy prime minister was walking out of a well-guarded mosque near his home on the edge of the fortified Green Zone in the middle of Baghdad. Salam al-Zubaie was struck in the chest by shrapnel and remains in hospital in a serious condition after undergoing surgery, according to the Iraqi authorities. The blast killed nine people, and wounded 14 more, including five of the minister's bodyguards.

Al-Zubaie is one of two Sunni leaders serving immediately under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and had been recently singled out in an al-Qaeda communiqué as a stooge for "the crusader occupiers." Al-Zubaie oversees important security matters for al-Maliki's government, and had been tapped to step in temporarily to run the Ministry of Interior when accusations of harboring death squads pushed Bayan Jabr from that post. But the Sunni leader had repeatedly complained that he was being sidelined by the prime minister and his top aides. He recently told an interviewer that his authority did not exceed that of a junior government employee. And he also differed publicly with al-Maliki over a mass kidnapping of Sunnis by purported Shiite militiamen in July, saying that Shiite-dominated security forces had been to blame for failing to maintain order.

Early reports suggested that the bomber may have been one of Zubaie's own bodyguards. Casualties included al-Zubaie's brother and cousin, a close aide and the imam who had just finished leading the Friday prayers. Al-Maliki himself visited al-Zubaie this afternoon at the American run Ibn Sina hospital inside the Green Zone.

Friday's bombing came a day after a rocket exploded 50 yards from the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a news conference in the Green Zone, causing him to cringe and duck just minutes after Prime Minister al-Maliki had said Ban's visit showed that the city was "on the road to stability." For those Iraqis were starting to breath easier in the capital and take advantage of the spring weather, the blast was another reminder of how far the U.S and Iraqi governments still have to go in implementing their ambitious five-week old security plan that has brought over 90,000 troops to the city.

AP contributed to this report