Militants bomb 2d key route in 2 days
3 US soldiers killed Sunday near Baghdad
BAGHDAD -- Suspected Al Qaeda bombers stepped up attacks on key transportation arteries, striking a bridge north of the capital yesterday, a day after shutting the superhighway south of Baghdad with a huge explosion that collapsed an overpass and killed three US soldiers.
The latest attack, using a parked truck bomb, blew apart the bridge that carries traffic over the Diyala River in Baqubah, police said. There were no casualties, but motorists and truckers now must use a road that runs through Al Qaeda-controlled territory to reach important cities.
Baqubah is the capital of Diyala Province, which is swarming with Al Qaeda fighters. Those militants were driven out of Baghdad by the four-month-old US security operation and out of Anbar Province west of the capital by Sunni tribesmen who rose up against the terrorist group.
In the Iraqi Parliament yesterday, members voted to remove the parliament speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, opening the way for the coalition of Sunni political groups who had installed him last year to replace him.
The attacks on the bridges were the latest in a campaign to deepen turmoil in Iraq, especially on the vital transportation network linking Baghdad to the rest of the country. Such bombings -- especially suicide attacks -- are an Al Qaeda trademark and one of the group's many and ever-shifting tactics against US and Iraqi forces.
Earlier this month, a bomb heavily damaged the Sarhat Bridge, a key crossing 90 miles north of the capital on a road connecting Baghdad with Irbil, Sulaimaniya, and other Kurdish cities.
In March and April, three of Baghdad's 13 bridges over the Tigris River were bombed.
The attacks were blamed on Sunni insurgent or Al Qaeda attempts to divide the city's predominantly Shi'ite east bank from the mostly Sunni western side of the river.
The most serious attack, an April 12 suicide truck bombing, collapsed the landmark Sarafiyah bridge and sent cars plunging into the brown waters of the Tigris. Eleven people were killed.
US forces used bulldozers yesterday to push aside the rubble of the overpass that crashed onto Iraq's main north-south highway just east of Mahmoudiyah, a dangerous city with a large Al Qaeda presence.
The suicide truck bombing 20 miles south of Baghdad not only brought down a section of the bridge, it killed three US soldiers at a checkpoint and wounded six other American soldiers along with an Iraqi interpreter, the US military said at its Camp Victory headquarters at Baghdad International Airport.
Tumult arose in Iraq's fragile political structure yesterday when lawmakers declared themselves fed up with the parliament speaker and voted to oust Mashhadani from his powerful post.
Mashhadani is a Sunni physician who was jailed by Saddam Hussein and who had said from the parliament speaker's chair that those who attack American forces should be treated as heroes. He was voted out in a closed session of the Shi'ite-dominated 275-member Legislature.
His ouster appeared to have grown out of a shouting match Sunday with lawmaker Firyad Mohammed Omar, a Shi'ite Turkoman.
Omar had complained to the speaker about the heavy-handedness of Mashhadani's bodyguards; Mashhadani responded abusively, according to lawmakers who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Omar told fellow legislators that the speaker's guards had assaulted him.
Mashhadani's deputy, Khaled al-Attiyah, who chaired the closed session, will assume the duties of the speaker until a replacement is chosen.
"It's an illegal decision made by a juvenile house," Mashhadani told the US-funded Radio Sawa in an interview posted on the Internet.
Mashhadani is part of the Accordance Front, Parliament's largest Sunni bloc with 44 of the house's 275 seats. Salim Abdullah, a fellow lawmaker from the Accordance Front, said it would offer a replacement for Mashhadani within a week.
The speaker's job is allotted to a Sunni member of Parliament according to an agreement among lawmakers who struggled for months to choose their leadership, a prime minister, and government.
The man expected to become Britain's next prime minister, meanwhile, met with Iraqi leaders during an unannounced visit. Treasury chief Gordon Brown has vowed to study his country's participation in the Iraq war in the face of growing opposition at home.
Brown, slated to succeed Tony Blair this month, was on a one-day fact-finding mission, British officials said.
In London, the House of Commons rejected a motion by Britain's opposition Conservative Party calling for a formal inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq. By a vote of 288 to 253, the lower house of Parliament sided with Blair, who has ruled out such an inquiry while British troops are deployed in Iraq.
Iraqi police, morgue, and hospital officials reported 34 deaths in sectarian violence across Iraq yesterday, including 17 bodies dumped on Baghdad streets and believed to be the victims of Shi'ite death squads.