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In Iraq, slayings in Fallouja area raise concerns

A tribal leader and a security official are killed in bombings. It is unclear who is behind the new wave of violence. In Baghdad, three Shiite pilgrims are killed in a grenade attack.

December 27, 2009|By Ned Parker and Nawaf Jabbar

Reporting from Ramadi and Baghdad Nawaf Jabbar — A tribal leader and a security official were killed in explosions Saturday, the latest in a string of assassinations in and around the western Iraqi city of Fallouja.

The deaths capped a violent week in the Fallouja area, where a candidate for parliament has survived two attempts on his life, and only last month, 13 people were executed by men dressed in army uniforms. That mass killing remains unsolved.

The assassinations have cast a pall over Anbar province, which was the center of the Sunni Arab insurgency until late 2006, when tribesmen revolted against the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq.

It is unknown who is behind the new wave of killings and whether the violence can be traced to Al Qaeda in Iraq, or tribal or political disputes preceding national elections in March.

The attacks Saturday raised concern that the region, and possibly the nation, could be entering a new era of uncertainty and violence, with elections, a new government, and the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces on the horizon.

Mahmoud Hussain Jassem Obaidi, a respected tribal leader, was killed when a bomb exploded outside his home in Abu Ghraib, an area between Fallouja and Baghdad, which was once a vital link for armed groups entering the capital.

His brother, Salah Hussain Jassem, said the family was awakened about 5 a.m. by a loud explosion.

"We thought it was a mortar round, so we ran out. We saw Abu Shakr lying there dead. He was cut into two pieces," he said, referring to his brother. "Our women were screaming. Then the police and army forces arrived, but they did not do much."

Obaidi had served on Abu Ghraib's tribal council and helped with fuel distribution in the area. His brother said he didn't know who could be responsible for the attack.

"Everybody is a target here," Jassem said. "He was killed because he was a decent man, with a good reputation, a man of principles. He was always neutral in solving tribal disputes and wanted to fight the corruption in the district."

Salah Jassem criticized the government for not doing enough to protect Abu Ghraib's residents, but stopped short of blaming any one group for the killing.

In Fallouja, Malik Jumaili, Anbar province's deputy director for guarding oil facilities, was killed by a bomb blast as he left home for morning prayers, police said.

In the last week, parliament candidate Saud Rihan survived two bombing attempts in Fallouja, one of which killed his brother.

Anbar province's police chief, Tareq Yusef, said that Al Qaeda in Iraq was trying to sow division before the elections, though some Iraqis blamed the tribes and parties that dominate the region.

"The assassinations are a settling of narrow partisan and tribal scores," said Jamal Ibrahim Ali, a resident of Ramadi, the provincial capital.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Khalil Ibrahim, who worked in Baghdad's Operation Command, was shot Saturday by men with silencers who pulled next to his car as he left a highway, police said.

Shiite pilgrims marching through Baghdad for ceremonies today mourning the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad, were also attacked. A grenade was tossed at one procession, killing three pilgrims and wounding 12 others, along with policemen, officials said.

ned.parker@latimes.com

Jabbar is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Usama Redha contributed to this report.

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