BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at — but missed — President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.
Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The shoe-thrower — identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network — could be heard yelling in Arabic: “This is a farewell … you dog!”
While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: “You killed the Iraqis!”
Al-Zaidi was dragged away. While al-Zaidi was still screaming in another room, Bush said: “That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know.”
Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
Al-Baghdadia issued a statement Sunday demanding al-Zaidi’s release.
Al-Zaidi remained in custody Monday while the Iraqi judiciary decides whether he will face charges of assaulting al-Maliki, a government official said.
Al-Zaidi drew international attention in November 2007 when he was kidnapped while on his way to work in central Baghdad. He was released three days later.
“So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?” Bush told a reporter in response to a question about the incident.
“Let me talk about the guy throwing his shoe. It’s one way to gain attention. It’s like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It’s like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers. …
Bush then directed his comments to the security pact, which he and al-Maliki were preparing to sign, hailing it as “a major achievement” but cautioning that “there is more work to be done.”
Bush’s trip was to celebrate the conclusion of the security pact, called the Strategic Framework Agreement and the Status of Forces Agreement, the White House said.
The pact will replace a U.N. mandate for the U.S. presence in Iraq that expires at the end of this year. The agreement, reached after months of negotiations, sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns. The date for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq is December 31, 2011.
Bush landed at Baghdad International Airport on Sunday and traveled by helicopter to meet with President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents at Talabani’s palace outside the Green Zone.
It marked the first time he has been outside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad without being on a military base.
Bush left Iraq on Sunday night and arrived Monday morning in Afghanistan, where he will met with President Hamid Karzai and speak with U.S. troops.
In remarks to reporters, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who traveled with Bush, described the situation in Iraq as “in a transition.”
“For the first time in Iraq’s history and really the first time in the region, you have Sunni, Shia and Kurds working together in a democratic framework to chart a way forward for their country,” he said.
On Monday, new violence in Iraq showed that work remains to be done.
A suicide car bomb attack killed at least three people and wounded 31 others west of Baghdad on Monday, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.
BREAKING NEWS: The Secret Service collected all the forensic evidence, namely the shoes. As it turns out, al-Zaida was not acting on his own. He was hired by someone to hurl the shoe at Chimpy. A source, requesting anonymity, who is close to the investigation disclosed that the shoes were a pair of $520 Ferragamos, leading to a particular suspect who has motive.