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The militant Islamic Army in Iraq has reportedly claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on the Iraqi National Congress leader, Ahmad Chalabi.

Chalabi's convoy was attacked south of Baghdad on Wednesday. He escaped unharmed, but several of his bodyguards were killed and one was taken hostage.

The al Jazeera television network broadcast a video from the group which featured Chalabi's bodyguard, who later died of his wounds.

In the video, the hostage said that three of his colleagues were killed in the assassination attempt.

Al Jazeera also reported the bodyguard had talked about "Ahmed Chalabi's relations with the American Congress and with Iran."

Chalabi, a leading figure of the exiled opposition to Saddam Hussein before the US-led invasion, fell out of favour with his US protectors over suspicion of leaking intelligence to Iran.

After the invasion, the US-led coalition appointed him at the head of a committee tasked with expelling thousands of former members of Saddam's Ba'ath party from the army and administration.

The Islamic Army in Iraq follows the strict Wahabist school of Islam and has already claimed responsibility for several abductions and executions in Iraq.

They are believed to have kidnapped two French journalists and were involved in the killing of Italian reporter Enzo Baldoni last month.

The militant group thought to be based mainly in Fallujah has demanded Paris lift a controversial ban on headscarves in state schools to secure the release of Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot.


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