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Kurdish lawmaker killed in Baghdad, his party blames Shiite militias

Kurdish lawmaker killed in Baghdad, his party blames Shiite militias

A Kurdish lawmaker was kidnapped and killed along with his driver, their bullet-ridden bodies dumped in the capital, his party said Friday, accusing Shiite militias in what would be the first slaying of a parliament member in Iraq's wave of sectarian violence.
Mohammed Ridha Mohammed was a member of the Islamic Group, a conservative Sunni party in the Kurdish Alliance that is the second largest bloc in parliament.
He was snatched along with his driver Thursday afternoon after they left the northeast Baghdad offices of a government agency that oversees Sunni mosques. Hours later, the two bodies were found with gunshots to the head and chest, said Firyad Rawndouzi, spokesman for the Kurdish bloc.
While Kurds are often targeted by Sunni insurgents, Mohammed's religious credentials suggested he may have been the victim of Shiite militias. One official in his party, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, accused the Mahdi Army, one of the most powerful Shiite militias, in the killing.
"He was a person who always sought peace between Shiites and Sunni in Baghdad. He has fallen a martyr to this sectarian war and the armed militias," the party said in a statement.
"This is a cowardly act of terrorism committed by forces against democracy," Rawndouzi said.
Thousands have been killed this year in a cycle of Shiite-Sunni killings since February _ though attacks on politicians have been less common. In July, a female Sunni lawmaker, Tayseer al-Mashhadani, was kidnapped by Shiite militiamen and held for two months until she was released unharmed.
During Friday prayers at the Imam al-Hussein shrine in Karbala, the representative of Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged militias to put down their arms.
"The weapons should be in the hands of the government only," Ahmed al-Safi told worshippers. "No other group should be allowed to carry weapons so that the state would be able to provide the appropriate security conditions to the Iraqi people."
Mohammed was the first lawmaker slain from the current parliament, formed in February _ though at least two members of the previous parliament were killed last year, before the wave of Shiite-Sunni slayings began.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is struggling to rein in the sectarian violence, which has sharpened divisions within his government between Shiite and Sunni parties. Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday met with al-Maliki and with the leaders of most of the ethnic and religious factions, delivering what U.S. officials said was a blunt message that the splits must stop.
A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meetings were confidential, said Rice told them that Americans do not see the long history behind ethnic and sectarian splits. Rice said Americans need to see Iraqis working together, according to the official.
"What they see are Iraqis killing Iraqis, and that is not a good image," said the official, describing Rice's remarks.
A curfew and vehicle ban was imposed in Baghdad for most of the day Friday _ a weekly occurrence to prevent attacks on Muslims gathering at mosques for prayers.
Before the curfew was put in place in the morning, one person was killed and four wounded in a double bombing outside a neighborhood power generator in the Qahira district. The first explosion set the generator ablaze, then when firefighters and others rushed in, the second went off, causing the casualties, police said.
In a predominantly Shiite part of eastern Baghdad, police found the bodies of five men in their 30s, the apparent victims of sectarian death squads _ their hands and feet bound and signs of torture on their bodies.
Iraqi police found three other bodies floating in the Tigris River in Suwayrah, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Baghdad, said Maamoun Ajeel, a morgue official in the nearby city of Kut where the bodies were taken. Four more bodies were found in the same area later and taken to the morgue, Ajeel said.
On Thursday, al-Maliki told the Associated Press that he was he was "optimistic" a political solution will be found to persuade militias to dissolve.
But once an agreement is reached, "the political solution must be obligatory, one that all parties adhere to," he said. "The presence of parties with militias in the government is not acceptable."
"The political parties must obey the decisions of the government or else get out of the political process. I don't believe there is any power that wants to leave the political process," he said, speaking during an "iftar" dinner, the meal that ends the daily Ramadan fast.
Several Shiite parties in al-Maliki's government have militias _ some of them blamed for grisly kidnapping-murders that nearly every day leave tortured and bound bodies of Sunnis dumped in neighborhoods of the capital.
Shiites have argued that militias are needed to protect them against Sunni insurgents who have targeted their community with brutal attacks against mosques, markets and other public areas. Shiite leaders have accused Sunni parties in the government of links to the insurgency. U.S. and Iraqi commanders have also said that some militia fighters may no longer be under the control of the parties, carrying out killings on their own.
Sunni leaders have accused al-Maliki of balking at moving forcefully against Shiite militias because of their links to the government.
Iraqi authorities on Wednesday pulled a brigade of about 700 policemen out of service in its biggest move ever to uproot troops linked to death squads. The brigade is suspected of allowing gunmen to kidnap 24 workers from a frozen food factory in a district of Baghdad where the Shiite Mahdi Army militia is known to have considerable power. The bodies of seven workers were found in another Baghdad district hours later; the fate of the others is unknown.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said Thursday that an armed Shiite group has threatened to kill Palestinian refugees living in Baghdad if they do not leave Iraq within 72 hours.
The New York-based group said it had obtained a leaflet from a group calling itself Al-Bayt Revenge Brigade Rapid Response Units that stated: "There is no place for Palestinians in the Iraq of Ali, Hassan, and Hussein." The names refer to three revered Shiite imams.
There was no indication when the time period began. The leaflet, the rights group said, urged the Palestinian refugees to leave and "fight occupation in your own country."


Updated : 2021-06-19 22:53 GMT+08:00