News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraq2 candidates from Iraq's Sunni-backed party killed

2 candidates from Iraq’s Sunni-backed party killed

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AP: Gunmen killed two candidates from the Sunni-backed coalition that won the most seats in Iraq’s March parliamentary election, slayings that the alliance said Saturday were part of a politically motivated campaign of assassinations.

The Associated Press

By ADAM SCHRECK

BAGHDAD (AP) — Gunmen killed two candidates from the Sunni-backed coalition that won the most seats in Iraq’s March parliamentary election, slayings that the alliance said Saturday were part of a politically motivated campaign of assassinations.

Neither candidate was expected to take a seat in the new parliament as both failed to win enough votes. But the killings were the third and fourth of candidates from the secular Iraqiya alliance in recent months, raising concerns about political intimidation of the top vote-getting bloc in the March 7 election.

In Mosul, Faris Jassim al-Jubouri’s attackers came to his home in the middle of the night dressed in army uniforms, according to brother Marwan Jassim, a police officer who was at the house. He said they demanded details about al-Jubouri, then found him sleeping on the roof, shot him three times, and fled. Police and morgue officials confirmed the killing.

In the town of Qaim in Anbar province, police said attackers planted a roadside bomb that killed hospital official Ehab al-Ani. The initial investigation indicated that al-Ani was not killed randomly, as many are by such explosives, but specifically targeted because of his ties to Iraqiya, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. Qaim is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) west of Baghdad.

Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoun Damlouji said both killings were part of series of assassinations targeting party members.

“The Iraqiya list does not want to escalate the situation, but we won’t sit silent over the killing of any Iraqi,” Damlouji said. She said the killings are “targeting democracy and the political process.”

Iraqiya, headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, has been at the center of a political showdown since Iraq’s inconclusive parliamentary election.

The bloc won two more parliamentary seats than its closest rival, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but no single group secured an outright majority, making a coalition government necessary.

Al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated party has joined up with a Shiite religious bloc in hopes of capturing enough seats in parliament to run the next government.

Iraqiya received much of its support from Iraq’s disaffected Sunni minority, which lost its political dominance with Saddam Hussein’s 2003 ouster. There are fears that if Iraqiya is left out of the next government — despite its election win — that Sunnis could feel further marginalized and violence could worsen, particularly attacks against government security forces. Sunnis once formed the core of the insurgency in Iraq.

Late Saturday, anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on Allawi, al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani to set aside their personal differences and hammer out an agreement on a new government within the next week. Talabani faces a June 15 deadline to seat the newly elected parliament, but it still could take months for lawmakers to agree on Iraq’s next prime minister and Cabinet.

Al-Maliki and Allawi are fierce political rivals. Both men want to be Iraq’s next prime minister.

The statement from al-Sadr, who lives in Iran, serves in part as a reminder of his growing influence after his party won 40 seats in parliament.

Also Saturday, a senior Kurdish official in northern Iraq said Iranian troops have crossed the Iraqi border in pursuit of Iranian Kurdish rebels and are encamped in a border village about a mile (1.6 kilometers) into Iraq.

About 35 Iranian soldiers remain in the village of Perdunaz after crossing the border two days earlier, according to Jabar Yawar, a deputy minister in the Kurdish autonomous region.

Iranian troops have been shelling the region for days in pursuit of the Kurdish rebel group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PEJAK, he said. Iran has previously targeted the border areas in pursuit of PEJAK fighters.

Iraq’s Defense Ministry could not immediately confirm the reports. Iranian officials could not be reached for comment.

Associated Press writers Bushra Juhi, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Mazin Yahya in Baghdad, and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, contributed to this report.

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