The bomb exploded at the gate of the Baghdad head office of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a party set up in Iran to oppose Saddam Hussein and one of the strongest groups running in the Jan. 30 elections.
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the party’s leader, whose home and offices are within the Jadiriyah district of Baghdad, was in his residence at the time of the attack but was unharmed, his spokesman Haitham al-Husseini said, according to the Associated Press.
Among the dead were guards outside the offices and civilians who happened to be nearby. Thirty-two cars on the streets or near the front gate were destroyed or damaged.
Al-Hakim’s son Ammar blamed Saddam followers for the suicide bombing. “They are the remains of the dead regime and their allies who carried out similar criminal acts in the past,” he said.
Al-Hakim told Reuters from his compound that the party would not retaliate for what he called an assassination attempt. “We have chosen the path of non-violence and we will stick to it,” he said.
Hours after the attack, Iraq’s top minority Sunni Muslim party — the Iraqi Islamic Party, said it was withdrawing from the election because the bloodshed would keep people from voting in the Sunni-dominated north and west, Reuters reported.
“We are withdrawing,” party leader Mohsen Abdel Hamid told a news conference. “We are not calling for a boycott, but we said we would take part only if certain conditions had been met and they have not.”
Persistent violence in Sunni Arab cities, most of which are under curfew, has raised fears that voters there will be too intimidated to go to the polls, thereby skewing the vote in favor of Iraq’s 60-percent Shiite Muslim majority.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, along with at least 16 other Sunni and secular parties, had threatened to boycott the election unless it was postponed by up to six months to ensure that voters across the country could take part, according to Reuters.
But most, including the Islamic party itself, later fielded lists of candidates for the poll to select 275 National Assembly members that will draft a constitution and appoint a cabinet.