In the latest attack on a political organization participating in the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council, the Iraqi Communist Party headquarters here was bombed, killing two people, officials said Friday.
In northern Iraq, two U.S. pilots were killed when their OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed outside Qayyarah. The cause of the crash, the fourth this month in Iraq, was not immediately known, officials said.
The explosion at the Communist Party office occurred after a meeting that ended about 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The dead men were party members who had remained in the office, including one who was imprisoned for 10 years by Saddam Hussein’s regime for being a member of the then-banned organization.
“The place was completely destroyed, and two comrades from the Communist Party met martyrdom,” said Subhi Jumaili, a member of the party’s Central Committee.
The streets of this capital are dotted with sandbag-ringed headquarters of political parties seeking to secure a position in post-Hussein Iraq. Some are new, and others, like the Communists and several religious organizations, newly legal. Many have had to deal with the attacks and assassinations that have become a staple of the political landscape.
The offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, whose leader is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, have been bombed several times. In August, a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric whose brother serves on the Governing Council was killed in a Najaf car bombing. And Governing Council member Aqila Hashimi, one of just three women on the panel, died in September of gunshot wounds.
The headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party, on the second floor of a nondescript Baghdad office building, stood out by virtue of its modesty. Guards did not search visitors and there were few security barriers.
The party had been working, at least nominally, with the Bush administration. One of its leaders serves on the U.S.-backed Governing Council. Its membership includes devout Muslims and Christians, and its platform emphasizes nationalism.
The party has a relatively high profile in Iraqi history, having helped lead protests against British colonialism and contributed to the overthrow of Iraq’s king in 1958. During the 1980s, it aided Kurds in northern Iraq in their uprising against Hussein.
Jumaili said the party, at 70 years old the veteran of Iraqi politics, represents a cross-section of the ethnically divided nation. “One of the main strengths of the party is that it is a pure, patriotic party,” he said. “The cadre is drawn from all sources -- Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians.”
Membership, he said, numbers in the thousands and has been growing despite the religious revival that also has emboldened several Islamic parties.
Jumaili said that during Hussein’s regime, the Communists worked well with exiled religious parties and that they shared an interest in ending the U.S.-led occupation and establishing security and stability in Iraq.
It was no surprise that their headquarters was targeted, he said. “This kind of explosion is a terrorist act, and it is not just against the Communist Party,” Jumaili said. “It is against all political parties.”
The helicopter crash in the north occurred about 8:30 p.m., officials said.
An initial report from a second helicopter made no mention of hostile activity in the area, the military said.
The Kiowa was downed northwest of Qayyarah. The names of the pilots were withheld pending notification of family.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday that one of its soldiers died in a road accident in Iraq. Rifleman Vincent Windsor, 23, of the Royal Green Jackets regiment, was killed Wednesday in the southeastern city of Amarah. A ministry spokesman said no details of the crash would be released.