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