x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Suicide bomber hugs Sunni Iraqi MP, killing him and six others

A militant posing as a construction worker killed a Sunni Iraqi MP and six others yesterday, wrapping his arms around the politician before blowing himself up.

FALLUJAH, Iraq // A militant posing as a construction worker killed a Sunni Iraqi MP and six others yesterday, wrapping his arms around the politician before blowing himself up.

The killing of Ayfan Saadun Al Essawi comes just two days after the finance minister, Rafa Al Essawi, a fellow Sunni and a member of the same tribe and political bloc, escaped an apparent assassination attempt as his convoy passed near where yesterday's attack took place.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Sunni militants often target officials and high-profile individuals in an attempt to destabilise the government and push the country back towards the bloodshed that raged from 2005 to 2008.

Al Essawi's killing is likely to further inflame tensions, with Iraq already grappling with a political crisis pitting the prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, against Essawi's secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc.

Al Essawi, 37, had been inspecting a road being paved south of Fallujah when the attacker, who was dressed as a construction worker, came up to him.

"The moment he stepped out of the car to check out this road between Fallujah and Amriyah, at this moment, there was a man," said Sohaib Haqi, the politician's office chief. "He came to him, hugged him, said 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greatest), and blew himself up."

Fallujah hospital's Dr Assem Al Hamdani put the overall death toll at seven dead - Al Essawi, four of his bodyguards and two civilians. Another six were wounded, including four of the MP's guards.

Al Essawi was also a former leader of the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against Al Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006, helping to turn the tide of Iraq's bloody insurgency. He was himself inducted into parliament after another Sunni MP, Khaled Al Fahdawi, was killed in a suicide attack at the Umm Al Qura mosque in Baghdad in 2011.

The crisis comes with barely three months to go before provincial elections, a key barometer of support for Mr Al Maliki and his opponents ahead of a general election next year.