It is more than 11 weeks since Iraq’s historic elections. But, amid a fresh upsurge in violence, hopes that a new government would finally be announced look to be in ruins. A commercial helicopter was shot down on Thursday, north of Baghdad. It is thought to be the first time a civilian aircraft has been downed by militants in the country. There are conflicting reports about the number of people on board, all of whom were killed.
What is clear is that at least six US passengers and three Bulgarian crew members are among the dead. All were civilians. Militants had earlier targeted outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
A suicide bomber in a car attacked his convoy in the capital. The caretaker premier escaped unhurt but two police officers were killed. In a statement on the Internet, the assassination attempt was later claimed by al Qaeda in Iraq, a militant group led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
But it is political squabbling rather than violence that is being blamed for the delay in forming a government. Sources involved in the talks say disputes surfaced when Allawi, whose bloc came third in January’s vote, rejected an offer to join the cabinet.
His successor as premier will be Shi’ite politician Ibrahim Jaafari, for whom restoring security to Iraq will remain a major challenge.