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Explosion wounds Iraqi defense minister candidate

By Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
  • NEW: Gunmen fatally shoot an Iraqi police officer north of Baghdad
  • Khalid al-Obaidi and his driver were injured when a roadside bomb exploded in Mosul
  • Key ministry positions in the Iraqi government remain vacant
  • Separately, a car bomb wounds an assistant professor in Baghdad

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- A roadside bomb explosion ripped through a car in eastern Mosul Sunday, wounding an Iraqi defense minister candidate and his driver, police said.

Khalid al-Obaidi was heading home when the blast struck. He was transferred immediately to an area hospital and is in stable condition, police said.

Mosul is about 420 kilometers (261 miles) north of Baghdad. A largely Sunni city, it has been a hotbed of ethnic and sectarian strife.

Al-Obaidi is a candidate of al-Iraqiya bloc, which won 91 seats, the largest number for any group, in the March 2010 elections. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law alliance trailed with 89.

Al-Iraqiya is headed by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and is supported by Sunni Arabs, while al-Maliki's coalition draws backing from Shiites.

The Iraqi government was formed in December, nine months after an inconclusive national election, though key security positions remain vacant amid political wrangling.

The government still does not have ministers of defense or interior, which oversee security forces. Al-Maliki serves as acting defense, interior and national security ministers.

Separately on Sunday, Hazim Ali al-Shummari, an assistant professor of political science at Baghdad University, was wounded when a bomb attached to his car exploded in the al-Khadraa neighborhood of western Baghdad, Interior Ministry officials said.

Gunmen shot and killed an Iraqi police officer while he was driving Sunday in al-Taji, just north of Baghdad, the officials said.

And in the al-Mashtal neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad, a car bomb exploded, wounding a policeman who works at the Interior Ministry, they said.

Overall, violence in Iraq has dropped dramatically since the peak of the sectarian violence between 2005 and 2007, but mortar attacks, bombs and assassinations are still commonplace.