Bomb hits convoy of Iraq's Sunni finance minister


BAGHDAD (AP) — Attackers detonated a bomb Sunday next to a convoy carrying the Iraqi finance minister, a central figure in more than two weeks of protests by minority Sunnis against the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government, police said.

The minister, Rafia al-Issawi, was not hurt in the bombing. The device exploded as the last car in his convoy was passing by.

Al-Issawi is one of the senior Sunni officials in the government. Arrest of his bodyguards set off a wave of protests in Anbar province, a huge, mostly Sunni area, once a haven for al-Qaida militants that targeted Shiites and U.S. forces during the American-led operation in Iraq that started in 2003. The last U.S. combat soldiers left Iraq a year ago.

The minister was heading to Fallujah to meet with tribal leaders. Fallujah is at the eastern edge of Anbar, closest to Baghdad.

The attack on al-Issawi could trigger another round of protests. Rare demonstrations by angry Sunnis on the main highway between Iraq and Syria caused disruptions over the past two weeks. Sunnis charge that the central government is discriminating against them.

In violence in Anbar on Sunday, police said a roadside bomb exploded next to a security patrol in Fallujah, killing a 7-year-old boy who was walking near the patrol. Three policemen were wounded.

Medics in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualty figures.

Police officials said another attack took place early Sunday, when gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint near the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, killing three soldiers and wounding two others.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters.

Violence has ebbed in Iraq, but insurgent attacks are still frequent.