Prominent Sunni MP killed in Baghdad attack

Harith al-Ubaidi, a prominent Sunni MP and deputy chairman of parliament's human rights committee, was assassinated as he left a mosque in west Baghdad, in a move that threatens to undermine reconciliation efforts in the country.


AFP - A teenage gunman went on the rampage in a Baghdad mosque on Friday, killing a senior Sunni Muslim MP and four other people in a grenade and gun attack, Iraqi officials and witnesses said.

Another 12 people were wounded and the gunman, who witnesses said appeared to be around 15 years old, killed himself after trying to flee.

In two other attacks, one in Baghdad and the other northeast of the capital, three people, including a teenage girl, were killed and 11 wounded, two days after Iraq's bloodiest attack since May 20.

"A young man entered the mosque, shot down the MP and his bodyguard, and then threw a grenade that killed three people and wounded 12," an interior ministry official said.

The slain lawmaker was Iraqi Islamic Party member Harith al-Obaidi who heads the National Concord Front's parliamentary bloc.

The attack occurred in the Al-Shawaf mosque in Al-Yarmuk, western Baghdad, after Friday prayers, which Obaidi was leading, on the Muslim holy day of the week.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the immediate launch of a probe into who was behind Obaidi's assassination.

Abu Omar, a worshipper at the mosque, told AFP that after shooting Obaidi and his bodyguard, the gunman exited the building and threw a grenade at mosque guards.

According to Omar, the guards fired back, injuring the youth, who then set off another grenade to kill himself.

Obaidi, born in 1966, was deputy chairman of parliament's human rights committee and on Thursday had called for an independent inquiry into torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq's prisons.

Salim Abdullah al-Juburi, spokesman for the National Concord Front, said Obaidi was someone who had been "fighting for others' rights," and added the party did not have any information about who was responsible for the attack.

Iraq has seen several political assassinations since the US-led invasion of 2003.

In February, Islamic Party official Samir Safwat was killed outside his Baghdad home by gunmen in a car. A month earlier, two candidates standing in provincial elections held on January 31 were killed in Baghdad and Mosul.

Friday's attacks come less than three weeks before the June 30 withdrawal of US troops from Iraq's urban centres, as part of an accord between Baghdad and Washington that will see all US combat troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Maliki warned on Thursday that insurgents and militias would likely step up their attacks in the coming weeks in a bid to undermine confidence in Iraq's own security forces.

Though violence has dropped markedly in Iraq in recent months -- May saw the lowest Iraqi death toll since the 2003 invasion -- attacks remain common, particularly in Baghdad and the restive northern city of Mosul.

Earlier on Friday, two people were killed and 10 wounded in a bomb attack targeting civilians on a main street in the mostly Shiite area of Baghdad Al-Jadida (New Baghdad), in the east of the capital, a police source said.

Recent attacks in the capital have mainly targeted Iraq's majority Shiite community, prompting fears of efforts by Al-Qaeda fighters to reignite the sectarian violence that swept the country, killing tens of thousands of people, in 2006 and 2007.

In another attack on Friday, gunmen raided an Iraqi soldier's home in the town of Baladruz in Diyala province, one of Iraq's most dangerous provinces, and killed his 17-year-old daughter, a security source said, adding that the mother was seriously wounded.

Friday's violence came two days after a car bomb attack on a market in Batha in the largely peaceful southern province of Dhi Qar that killed 19 people and wounded 56 others.

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