Al-Samarrai avoids bomb, grenades, guns

Updated: July 13, 2004, 4:59 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq's Olympics chief said he survived an assassination attempt when attackers threw grenades and fired automatic weapons at his car in Baghdad after a roadside bomb failed to kill him.

Ahmed al-Samarrai said he was unhurt after the Monday ambush on his two-car convoy, adding he had no idea why anyone would target him. He said he was traveling to a television interview when his convoy came under attack.

The attack wounded one of his guards and damaged a car before his convoy sped to safety, he said on Tuesday.

"I am surprised at this attack because the Olympic Committee has nothing to do with politics. This committee belongs to all Iraqis, regardless of their political, religious or ethnic origins," al-Samarrai told reporters.

"This was an assassination attempt."

Al-Samarrai is responsible for getting Iraq's fledgling team of athletes ready for the Olympic Games in Athens next month, a mammoth task for a country gripped by insurgency and violence in the wake of the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein last year.

Iraq is sending a small team of athletes to the Athens games, including track and field competitors, its under-23 soccer team and a tae kwon do champion.

Attacks on prominent Iraqis are common, especially those seen as cooperating with the United States.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.