Iraq officials say gunmen killed Sunni cleric after morning prayers in Baghdad

By David Rising, AP
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sunni cleric killed in Baghdad shooting

BAGHDAD — Gunmen killed a Sunni cleric early Wednesday, spraying him with bullets outside a Baghdad mosque where he had just finished leading morning prayers, officials said.

Violence has picked up amid the political vacuum following March 7 national election that produced no clear winner and set off extended political wrangling.

Iraqi and U.S. officials have blamed the spate of attacks on al-Qaida in Iraq or other extremists seizing on gaping security lapses created by the political deadlock.

It was not known why the 48-year-old Sheik Ghazi Jabouri was targeted Wednesday. He was gunned down in a hail of automatic-weapons fire outside the al-Rahman mosque in the primarily Sunni-neighborhood of Azamiyah in north Baghdad at about 5 a.m., a police officer said. An army officer confirmed the report.

Both men spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. They said witnesses reported seeing a group of gunmen on foot, but could not say exactly how many were involved.

At the cleric’s funeral later in the morning, worshippers — including one whose clothes were still stained with blood — said prayers by Jabouri’s simple wooden coffin, before hoisting it on their shoulders and carrying it to a nearby cemetery for burial.

Elsewhere in the capital, a high-ranking police officer was killed when a so-called “sticky bomb” on his car exploded as he drove to work, an Interior Ministry official said.

The official said that in addition to killing Brig. Gen. Arkan Ali, who served on the ministry’s anti-terrorism force, the explosion in western Baghdad’s al-Nisoor Square also injured four bystanders, a traffic policeman and another ministry official who was in the car.

A local police officer confirmed the report. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In last month’s parliamentary election, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition came in second, two seats behind the alliance headed by his archrival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Lacking an undisputed winner, both coalitions are now brokering deals to combine blocs that would give them control of the parliament.

Rumors have swirled in recent days that al-Maliki was close to forming an alliance with another Shiite bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance, which could leave him just four seats shy of the 163-seat parliament majority in the 325-member assembly.

It was not clear, however, whether the hardcore religious Sadrist wing of the INA, which has a long-standing grudge against al-Maliki, would sign off on a partnership.

Representatives of various Iraq parties have been visiting Iraq’s neighbors since the election to rally support. Members of Allawi’s party traveled to Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and a delegation was to visit Iran on Wednesday. Al-Maliki’s party previously sent a delegation to Iran as well.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry official Mohammed Kassem told parliament this week that the leader of the Sadrists, anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — whose negotiators have already been to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran — would visit Cairo soon.

But al-Sadr’s spokesman Salah al-Obeidi said, however, that the Egypt trip was just a rumor and that al-Sadr had no plans to visit Cairo.

Associated Press Writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed to this report.

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