- BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents
detonated car bombs and fired rocket propelled grenades at the Abu Ghraib
prison, injuring 44 U.S. forces after a period of declining attacks that
had raised hopes the insurgency might be weakening. Lawmakers cast votes
for parliament speaker Sunday in a session aimed at ending a deadlock.
- After intense negotiations, lawmakers cast ballots in
a vote that was expected to elect Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani, a
Sunni Arab, as parliament speaker. Lawmakers were also voting for two deputy
speakers, with former nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani and Kurdish
leader Aref Taifour the leading candidates.
- Officials also hoped to name a new president, likely
Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, and his two vice presidents, later in the
- Once in his post, Talabani and his two vice presidents
have two weeks to name the new interim prime minister, expected to be Shiite
politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari. After that, the legislative body has until
mid-August to write a new constitution that will pave the way for new elections
and a permanent government.
- Parliament's 275 members have struggled to form a new
government after the historic Jan. 30 elections. Their session Tuesday
to choose a parliament speaker disintegrated into shouts and accusations.
- All the candidates for speaker were Sunni Arabs, an effort
to reach out to the minority group once dominant under Saddam Hussein and
believed to be the backbone of the country's insurgency.
- Late Saturday, dozens of insurgents attacked the infamous
Abu Ghraib prison, resulting in a clash that lasted about 40 minutes, 1st
Lt. Adam Rondeau said. He added that it was unclear if the clash was aimed
at helping prisoners escape, although the militants were unable to penetrate
the prison's walls and no detainees were set free.
- "This was obviously a very well-organized attack
and a very big attack," Rondeau said.
- On Sunday, U.S. military officials raised the casualty
toll from 20 to 44 U.S. soldiers and Marines wounded. Officials said 13
prisoners were also injured.
- Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill said one attacker was killed in
the clash, but that none was detained. He didn't give further details.
- Some soldiers were evacuated with serious injuries, officials
said, but many wounds were minor and treated at the scene.
- Officials refused to say whether the insurgents carrying
out the attack were arrested or suffered casualties.
- Abu Ghraib, which is just west of Baghdad, was at the
center of a prisoner abuse scandal that broke out in 2004 when pictures
showing soldiers piling naked inmates in a pyramid and humiliating them
sexually became public. The resulting scandal tarnished the military's
image worldwide and sparked investigations of detainee abuses.
- The United States is holding about 10,500 prisoners in
Iraq; 3,446 are at Abu Ghraib.
- Also Sunday, two bystanders were injured when a bomb
destroyed a store in southeast Baghdad, police Lt. Mazin Saeed said. It
was unclear why the store was targeted.