Bombs kill five in post-election attack in Iraq

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The Independent Online

Several bombs exploded near a house linked to a prominent Sunni figure who ran in this month's parliamentary elections in Iraq yesterday, killing five people and wounding 26 others.

The attack adds to fears of postelection violence as the bitter election rivals enter what are expected to be drawn out talks on forming the next government that will rule Iraq as US troops leave by the end of 2011.

The blasts took place in the town of Qaim, about 200 miles west of Baghdad and on the border with Syria. The first bomb, planted at a house under construction, went off at 7am. As onlookers gathered, four more bombs hidden in trash littered around the site detonated, causing the casualties.

The house belongs to a brother of Sheik Murdhi Muhammad al-Mahalawi, a Sunni candidate who ran on the Iraqiya list led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the top vote-getter in the March 7 balloting. Neither al-Mahalawi's brother nor any construction workers were at the site when the bombs went off.

A family member said that two of al-Mahalawi's cousins, who live next door, died in the blasts. The cousins were identified as brothers Yousif Radhi al-Mahalawi and Mohammed Radhi al-Mahalawi, both members of a minor Sunni party in Allawi's coalition.

The win in March 7 parliamentary elections by Allawi's secular bloc, which got 91 seats, two seats more than Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's group, reflected an extraordinarily close race.

Allawi's road to regaining the premiership is not certain. Al-Maliki angrily denounced the election outcome and his supporters have vowed to fight the results.

Allawi's Iraqiya coalition drew on support from Sunnis frustrated with the Shi'ite-dominated government, which they say has incited sectarian tensions and is too closely aligned with neighboring Iran.

Since both al-Maliki and Allawi's blocs are far short of the 163 seat majority needed to form a government alone, a Shiite religious coalition and the US-allied Kurds are likely to be kingmakers in any future government.