BAGHDAD — An alleged Al Qaeda militant was hanged for his role in one of the first major bombings in Iraq — a 2003 blast that killed a Shia leader and 84 other people and foreshadowed the four-year insurgency that followed, a Justice Ministry official said Friday.
Close to the Iranian border, a suicide attacker detonated his car outside a cafe in a Kurdish village, killing at least 17 people and wounding four, police said.
Oras Mohammed Abdul-Aziz was executed Tuesday in Baghdad after being sentenced to death in October in the killing of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the official said.
Ministry Undersecretary Busho Ibrahim's statement to The Associated Press was the first word that a suspect had been tried in the huge August 2003 car bombing outside the Shrine of Ali in Najaf, one of Shia Islam's holiest sites.
Al-Hakim was poised to become a major figure in Iraqi politics following the fall of Saddam Hussein. His brother, Abdulaziz al-Hakim, now heads the group, the largest Shia party in parliament.
Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack. Mr. Ibrahim said Abdul-Aziz, from the northern city of Mosul, was affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and confessed to other attacks, including the 2004 killing of Abdel-Zahraa Othman, the president of the Governing Council, the American-appointed body that ran Iraq following Saddam's fall.
The al-Hakim slaying came 10 days after the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad killed 23 people, including the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, an attack also claimed by Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Also Friday, the military said an America soldier died of wounds sustained in combat Thursday in western Baghdad, and a church leader said gunmen waylaid a minibus south of Kirkuk and seized four Christian men.
The Chaldean Catholic archbishop in Kirkuk, Right Reverend Louis Saka, said a 21-year-old Christian woman was on the bus when it was stopped Thursday but was released by the captors, who are demanding a $40,000 ransom. Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes since the 2003 invasion because of threats by Islamic extremists and criminal gangs.
The suicide attack close to the Iranian border took place about 9 p.m. in the small village of Ahmad Maref, said police Major Zahid Ali Hussein, who reported the casualty toll.
The village is near the city of Khanaqin, 85 miles northeast of Baghdad and on the far eastern edge of Diyala province, where American forces are waging an offensive around the main city of Baqouba.
The village consists of about 30 homes of Kurdish farmers, who returned after the 2003 American invasion to homes they were ejected from during Saddam Hussein's rule. There have been several suicide attacks in the past two years in Khanaqin, killing and wounding dozens of people. Many of the Kurds in the area are Shia Muslims.