The Iraqi Islamic Party said that Umar Mahmud Abd Allah, a cleric who has written a number of books on Islam, was snatched from his pharmacy in the northern city of Mosul and killed on Tuesday.

"The Iraqi Islamic Party condemns this crime," it said in a statement. A party official said Abd Allah was shot in the head after he was seized on Tuesday.

Hashim Yihya al-Tai, an Iraqi political analyst told Aljazeera he thought the crime was committed by a group related to Mossad. 

"Their killing style indicates they had the green light to do so," he said.

"They arrived in seven cars, closed a crowded road in Yunis area, entered Abd Allah's pharmacy and killed him in a very cruel way. They then threw his dead body near Dar al-Salam hospital in Mosul," he added.  

Fighters have targeted mostly election officials and politicians in a bid to undermine the polls.

The violence has prompted calls for a delay in the election.

The party pulled out of the January poll fearing persistent bloodshed would deter Iraqis in the Sunni north and west from casting their ballots, skewing the outcome and undermining its credibility.

Situation in Mosul

"Criminals are messing around in the city's streets, annoying the citizens. There is no police, security or US force in the city."

Hashim Yihya al-Tai, Iraqi political analyst

In Mosul, election preparations are behind schedule and there are no signs of campaigning on the streets.

The city, Iraq's third largest, has been sliding into chaos over the past year.

Al-Tai said: "The security situation in Mosul is difficult. We hear explosions or gunfire almost every two hours.

"Criminals are messing around in the city's streets, annoying the citizens. There is no police, security or US force in the city."

Fighters have overrun police stations and chased away police who have yet to return.

Many residents of Mosul say they are too scared to vote in a city where fighters have pasted posters in mosques warning people against taking part.

While the Iraqi Islamic Party has withdrawn from the January
poll, it remains a firm supporter of the transition to democracy
in Iraq.