Al-Qaeda Sends a Message

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People leave the scene of a bomb blast inside the Iraqi Parliament building, April 12, 2007.

In an assault apparently aimed at chilling negotiations between the Iraqi government and a faction of the insurgency, the Iraqi Parliament, located in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, suffered a bomb attack. An official at the Ministry of the Interior told TIME that the bomber was wearing a suicide vest and was likely a guard for one of the members of parliament. The blast went off just after 2 p.m. on Thursday at the cafe in the central atrium of the building just outside the main hall where politicians, staff and journalists often meet for a cup of tea or a plate of food from a buffet spread. The casualty estimates fluctuated all day. On Friday, the U.S. military said that 22 people were injured and one civilian killed, Mohammed Awad, a Sunni legislator belonging to the moderate National Dialogue Front.

Two secondary bombs were found, apparently set to mow down those fleeing the initial blast, said the Interior Ministry official. One was in a briefcase inside the building, he said, and another in the parking lot outside. One of the detection machines leading into the Baghdad Convention Center, where Parliament is housed, was not operating Thursday, said the official, who was suspicious of a wider plot. U.S. forces have sealed off the building and are conducting an investigation into the blast. Two weeks ago, Coalition forces found two suicide vests inside the Green Zone and there was speculation about the presence of a third in the area.

Within an hour of the explosion, a message from the al-Qaeda-controlled Islamic State in Iraq was posted on a prominent militant website,, calling the blast a "message" to anyone who cooperates with "the occupier and its agents." It said ominously, "We will reach you wherever you are"

The extremists want to stop efforts of reconciliation between the Iraqi government and an Iraqi-led, nationalist faction of the insurgency that has turned on al-Qaeda in recent weeks. That was the likely motive in an earlier attack on March 23, when Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie was hospitalized after an attack reportedly carried out by a guard who detonated a suicide vest at al-Zubaie's compound on the edge of the Green Zone. Al-Zubaie, a Sunni from a powerful tribe west of Baghdad, is an important promoter of the reconciliation policy.

Recently, gunfights and tit-for-tat executions have erupted in west Baghdad between the nationalist Battalion of the 1920 Revolution and al-Qaeda-backed fighters. Last week, an influential nationalist group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, asked Osama bin Laden to rein in al-Qaeda in Iraq's more extreme tactics, such as targeting Iraqi civilians and brutally enforcing Sharia Law.

Just hours before the explosion in Parliament, a suicide truck bomb collapsed the Al-Sarafiyah bridge in Baghdad. Some 10 people were killed as their vehicles fell into the Tigris River below. The sagging steel trusses of the bridge, which was built by British engineers over half a century ago to connect the predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood Atafiyah with the Sunni area of Waziriyah, provided another sad reminder to residents of the widening sectarian divisions in the capital.