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Suicide bomber kills Iraqi MP, six others

Attack raises tensions in country already grappling with political crisis

Gulf News

Fallujah, Iraq: A suicide bomber killed a Sunni Iraqi MP and six others on Tuesday, wrapping his arms around the lawmaker before blowing himself up amid a political crisis engulfing the country.

The killing of Ayfan Sa’adun Al Essawi comes just two days after 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 was passing near where Tuesday’s attack took place.

It is likely to further inflame tensions with Iraq already grappling with a political crisis that has pitted Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki against Al Essawi’s secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc.

Al Essawi, 37, had been inspecting a road under construction south of Fallujah at the time of the attack.

“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 lawmaker’s office chief. “He came to him, hugged him, said Allahu Akbar, and blew himself up.”

Doctor Assem Al Hamdani at Fallujah hospital put the overall toll at seven dead — Al Essawi, four of his bodyguards and two civilians — and six wounded, including four of the lawmaker’s guards.

Al Essawi was also a former leader of the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against Al Qaida and sided with the US military from late 2006, helping turn the tide of Iraq’s bloody insurgency.

Tuesday’s suicide blast comes amid a political crisis in Iraq.

Weeks of anti-government demonstrations in Sunni Arab majority areas, supported by Iraqiya, have hardened opposition against Al Maliki, a Shiite.

The premier is at loggerheads with Iraqiya, which is a part of his national unity government, over its accusations of authoritarianism and sectarianism in the run-up to key provincial polls.

The demonstrations in Sunni areas have decried alleged misuse of anti-terror laws to hold members of the minority community, and claim Sunnis are being targeted by the Shiite-led authorities.