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Suicide bomber kills Iraqi lawmaker as protests simmer

January 15, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Iraqi Sunni Muslims wave a giant national flag during an anti-government demonstration in Fallujah, western Iraq.
Iraqi Sunni Muslims wave a giant national flag during an anti-government… (Mohammed Jalil / European…)

A Sunni Muslim lawmaker was killed Tuesday by a suicide bomber in the restive stretches of western Iraq, two days after another Sunni official survived a bombing in the same area.

Ifan Saadoun Issawi was on his way to attend protests against the government when he was slain in Fallouja, Anbar province Gov. Qassim Fahdawi told the Associated Press. He was reportedly from the same tribe and political bloc as Rafia Issawi, the Sunni finance minister targeted Sunday. Issawi was not harmed.

The slain lawmaker was inspecting a road when the bomber approached him, his office chief told Agence France-Presse. "The moment he stepped out of the car to check out this road between Fallouja and Amriya, at this moment, there was a man," Sohaib Haqi told the news agency. "He came to him, hugged him, said Allahu Akbar [God is great], and blew himself up."

Six other people perished in the attack, according to news reports. No group immediately stepped forward Tuesday to claim responsibility for the assault, but the two bombings echoed other attacks by Sunni Muslim extremists such as Al Qaeda.

“It fits their pattern,” said Douglas Ollivant, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. “Al Qaeda is responding to the tensions in Anbar by attacking these relatively moderate Sunni leaders.”

Suspicions also settled on Sunni extremists because the slain lawmaker was a former leader in the Sahwa, a Sunni group that helped U.S. forces fight Al Qaeda.

The attacks come in the throes of Sunni protests against the Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Protesters charge that Sunnis are disenfranchised and have agitated for the release of Sunni detainees they claim are unfairly held. Iraqi officials have sought to placate the protesters, saying they have heeded their demands by releasing hundreds of prisoners this week.

A United Nations envoy to Iraq condemned the Tuesday suicide bombing and urged the resumption of political dialogue to quell tensions. “I call again on all political forces to foil any attempt at instigating strife and to demonstrate utmost restraint,” Martin Kobler said.

The finance minister who escaped the Sunday bombing is a crucial figure in the protests: The angry demonstrations were set off weeks ago after Issawi said his bodyguards were illegally arrested, part of what the protesters charge is a pattern of targeting Sunni leaders.

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