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Middle East
Iraq holds state funeral for MP
"Voice of moderation" Harith al-Ubaidi buried in Baghdad after mosque shooting.
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2009 11:35 GMT
Al-Maliki, second from left, and politicians from across Iraq's political spectrum attended the funeral [AFP]
 

Iraq has held its first state funeral since the US-led invasion in 2003, for Harith al-Ubaidi, the murdered Sunni Muslim leader.

Al-Ubaidi, the head of the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament and a leading human rights advocate, was shot dead at a mosque in western Baghdad after Friday prayers.

Al-Ubaidi was seen as an important politician, able to broker peace among his bloc's groups and also with Shia Muslims, Kurds and others who have vied for power in the past six years.

"Al-Ubaidi was the voice of moderation and, unfortunately, those kinds of men are always targeted because of that," Ayad al-Samarai, Iraq's parliamentary speaker, said as al-Ubaidi's coffin, and that of a brother-in-law, were laid out in parliament.

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, and politicians from across Iraq's political spectrum watched as a white-clad honour guard carried al-Ubaidi's coffin and the other containing his sister's husband, a close aide, who was among five other people killed in Friday's attack.

Savage attack

Police said a young man shot the politician twice in the head with a pistol before opening fire on worshippers and throwing a grenade. He was then killed by mosque guards.

The assassination could undermine efforts for reconciliation in the country, which holds a parliamentary election next January.

The vote will be a test of whether Iraq's feuding factions can live in peace after sectarian bloodshed erupted after the 2003 US-led invasion, which overthrew Saddam Hussein, the former president.

Maliki's Shia-led government has said attacks will intensify ahead of the vote, and blamed recent violence on al-Qaeda and other Sunni groups still waging a rebellion despite a sharp fall in fighting in the past year.

Political rapprochement

Al-Qaeda, which views Shia Muslims as heretics, has accused members of al-Ubaidi's Accordance Front of being traitors for taking part in Iraq's political process.

US combat forces are due to leave Iraqi cities by the end of June, and withdraw completely by 2012.

Washington hopes political rapprochement can be reached before they depart.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Iraq's Shia vice-president, said at the funeral that all members of parliament were under threat.

"We must stand as one against the repulsive terrorist groups who target every faithful and sincere official."

Al-Maliki has ordered an inquiry into al-Ubaidi's death.

Source:
Agencies
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