Explosion at home of bodyguard of radical Shiite cleric in Najaf kills two

An attacker set off an explosion in the home of a bodyguard of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednedsay, killing two people and wounding five others, al-Sadr aides and a hospital official said.

The blast went off at about sunset in the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, and sparked a fire in the house, said Ahmed al-Rwazeq, an aide to the cleric.. Immediately afterward, a man was seen running away and jumping into a car that fled the scene, he said.

Two people were killed and five wounded, said Dr. Alaa Abdul Hussein doctor at Najaf's general hospital. Al-Rwazeq said the victims were relatives of the bodyguard, Qassem Mansour, who was not at home and was not injured.

"The incident was intentional," said Sahib al-Ameri, another aid to al-Sadr. "There are parties who are trying to create chaos in this holy city who are behind this attack."

He said Mansour had received death threats warning him to leave al-Sadr's group.

Al-Sadr blamed officials in Najaf, saying in a statement released by his office in Baghdad that they "are responsible for insecurity" in the city.

Al-Sadr holds a wide following among Shiites, particularly the poor and young, in Baghdad and other areas and his militia rebelled twice last year, clashing with U.S. troops. Since then, he has avoided confrontation and increased his political role.

He has bucked the stance of most Shiite leaders, rejecting a draft constitution due to be put to a referendum on Oct. 15. Gunmen loyal to al-Sadr clashed with U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad on Sunday in fighting that killed at least eight Iraqis, AP reported.

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