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Iraqi Parliament Holds Special Session Day After Attack


An insurgent umbrella group which includes al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed Friday it carried out the parliament suicide bombing in Baghdad's Green Zone. The U.S. military has revised the death toll of the bombing sharply downward to one dead from its initial report of eight. From northern Iraq, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The umbrella group, calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq, said in a statement posted on a Web site that it was responsible for Thursday's suicide attack on the parliament cafeteria in the heavily fortified Green Zone. The group said "one of the heroes of the martyrs' brigade" infiltrated the area, but the group delayed issuing the claim of responsibility to allow its men time to flee.

The U.S.-based SITE Institute, which tracks militant postings, said the claim by the group appeared authentic.

In a statement Friday morning, the U.S. military said "after further research and consultation with government of Iraq officials" it had determined that only one "civilian" had been killed in the attack and 22 were wounded. Initial reports from the U.S. military said eight people had been killed.

Many legislators returned to the convention center Friday where their colleague, Mohammad Awad, a Sunni Arab deputy from the National Dialogue Party, was killed.

The lawmakers offered prayers for the dead and called for Iraqi unity. A bouquet of red and white flowers was left on the dead deputy's chair.

The hall was less than full, apparently because of increased security measures and the weekly Friday driving ban from noon to 3 o'clock. Some members arrived while the meeting was in progress.

Parliament speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani called the special session to "defy terrorism." He said parliament is stronger today than yesterday.

He said, the parliament, government and the people are all the same - they are all in the same ship which, if it sinks, will make everyone sink. He said Iraq's ship will not sink, but the terrorist's ship will.

A stream of deputies spoke about their dead colleague and many expressed determination to resolve the country's political and sectarian problems.

Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi said Iraqis must open their hearts to understand and forgive each other and take national reconciliation to a new level.

Deputy Prime Minister Barhem Salih said Thursday's attack proves the terrorists do not differentiate among Iraqis, as Sunnis, Shi'ites, Kurds and Turkmen were all targets. He said the bombing was an attack against a symbol of the people's power and authority and the political system that they created.

The explosion was in the building's cafeteria, where several deputies had gone to take tea and have lunch following the morning session. Among the wounded was a female deputy, who was present for Friday's session.

Dr. Nada, whose neck was bandaged, said when the bomb exploded she did not think of herself or the people in the room with her, but of all Iraqis who face such horrors as kidnapping, murder and bombings on a daily basis.

Nassar al-Rubaie, head of the parliamentary bloc allied with radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr criticized the Americans for not providing adequate security.

He said the Americans are in charge of security in the Green Zone but no one dares to hold them responsible for this attack. Iraqi television cut him off in mid-remarks, switching the screen to Friday prayers.

An investigation into the attack is under way. Several people, including some cafeteria workers and security guards have been questioned.

Thursday's attack on the convention center, as well as a truck bombing on a major Baghdad bridge the same day, struck blows to the U.S. and Iraqi security plan to rein in violence. Overall deaths are down in the capital, but U.S. military officials say high-profile suicide bombings continue to present a challenge.

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