Gunmen kill son of Iraq's top judge
The killings came five months after the judge survived a Dec. 4 suicide bomb attack against his home.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen killed the son of Iraq's top judge Saturday as the country's prime minister-designate struggled to form a national unity government that could eventually open the way to stability.
Police found the bodies of Ahmed Midhat al-Mahmoud, 22, a lawyer, and two of his bodyguards in northern Baghdad's Azamiyah district, said Hasan Sabri the head of the local council and Iraq's deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali.
The killings came five months after the judge, Midhat al-Mahmoud, survived a Dec. 4 suicide bomb attack against his home. Two people were wounded in the attack.
Ahmed Midhat al-Mahmoud's father heads the Supreme Judicial Council, a judicial supervisory body which among other things swears in all judges and parliament.
The al-Mahmoud family is Shiite and the three bodies were found dumped onto a street in the mostly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Azamiyah, Sabri and Ali said.
The killings were the latest carried out against government officials or their families. They could also be part of a series of killings carried out by death squads and militias, who have kidnapped and killed hundreds of Sunnis and Shiites -- often motivated by sectarian hatred.
Elsewhere, attacks outside Baghdad killed five Iraqis and a U.S. soldier, part of the undercurrent of daily violence marring the slow-moving political process.
Frustrated with such violence in the south, the governor of oil-rich Basra, Mohammed al-Waeli, asked his provincial council to fire the regional police chief and the defense ministry to sack an Iraqi army general.
Al-Waeli, a member of the dominant Shiite coalition, demanded the dismissal of police Maj. Gen. Hassan Swadi and army Maj. Gen. Abdullatif Taaban for failing to rein in violence that has marred his region in recent days.
In one success, Kurdish security forces in the north said they arrested five men who had escaped on May 9 from the U.S. military Fort Suse Theater internment facility near Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles northeast of Baghdad.
With a May 22 constitutional deadline to form the new Cabinet approaching, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged a breakaway party to return to the ranks of the Shiite coalition that dominates the 275-member parliament, and again join negotiations to form his government.
Parliament, which must approve the makeup of the government, was to convene today, and some lawmakers have suggested that al-Maliki could present some of his Cabinet. In an effort to get around an impasse on key ministries -- including defense and interior -- al-Maliki could appoint himself to temporarily run those ministries.
Wrangling over the makeup of a government that will be representative of all religious groups and political trends has delayed for months the formation of a new government following the successful Dec. 15 legislative elections, which saw a record turnout among Sunni Arabs that form the heart of the insurgency.
The Shiite Fadhila party withdrew from negotiations and removed the support of its 15 deputies for the 130-strong United Iraqi Alliance last Friday after complaining, in part, over al-Maliki's failure to give it the country's top oil post. The party held the oil and tourism portfolios under outgoing Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
The party has threatened to set up an opposition bloc in parliament.
Al-Maliki said in a statement that he was "keen on the participation of the Fadhila party in the formation of the government and its participation in the United Iraqi Alliance."
He added that "Fadhila is part of the Alliance. If there is a dispute over ministerial posts, it can be resolved through dialogue."
Fadhila spokesman Sheik Sabah al-Saedi said earlier that the party's 15 legislators in the 275-member parliament would go ahead and form an opposition bloc. He denied the oil portfolio was behind the decision to withdraw.
"The main reason behind our withdrawal from the new government is that we do believe that Iraq needs a strong and competent government that is able to consider the national interests rather than narrow ones," al-Saedi told AP Television News.