Iraqi Sunni cleric wounded in bomb attack

Blast in capital's western Yarmouk neighbourhood leaves Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaie badly injured and one bodyguard dead.

    A bomb has struck the convoy of a senior Sunni cleric in western Baghdad, killing at least one person and critically wounding the Muslim leader.

    The blast in the capital's Yarmouk neighbourhood on Sunday morning, left Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaie badly hurt and one of his bodyguards dead, a Sunni religious official said.

    The cleric had just finished leading prayers to mark the beginning of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, which follows the holy month of fasting, Ramadan.

    "A car bomb targeted the convoy of Sheikh Sumaidaie after he left a mosque in Yarmouk," an interior ministry official said, referring to a neighbourhood in the capital's west.

    The official, who declined to be identified, said Sumaidaie and four of his bodyguards were wounded in the blast.

    "Gunmen driving a car tried to cut off Sheikh al-Sumaidaie's convoy, and when the convoy came to a halt, another car driving fast crashed into his car and blew up," Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie, the religious leader's cousin told AFP news agency.

    "He was transferred to intensive care at Medical City hospital, where they performed surgery to remove shrapnel from his head."

    Earlier this year, he called for a unified religious authority to bridge the gap between Iraq's Sunnis and Shia.

    Hardline Sunni groups often target Sunni clerics seen as working closely with the Shia-led government.

    Deadly month

    Al-Sumaidaie was one of the Sunni religious leaders who called on followers to fight US-led forces after the 2003 invasion.

    He established a conservative Salafi group based in one of the mosques on Baghdad's Sunni-dominated western side.

    After US troops left, his group was among those who abandoned their weapons and sided with the government. Since then, he has urged followers to support the government for the sake of security and to help rebuild the country.

    On Saturday, six people were killed in what police officials described as "terrorist attacks", Associated Press news agency reported. Two homes were raided in Mosul, a northern city, about 360km north of Baghdad, which was once an al-Qaeda stronghold.

    Officials were still investigating why the gunmen stormed the houses, killing a husband and wife and two others in the first attack, and two men in the second house.

    This follows a relentless assault across the country on Thursday. In what was the second deadliest day in Iraq since US troops left in December, at least 93 people were killed. 

    No group has yet claimed responsibility for the wave of killings.

    Violence fueled by sectarian differences has declined in Iraq since its height between 2005 and 2008, though deadly attacks continue to occur almost daily and have picked up in recent weeks.

    About 200 people have been killed since the start of August.

    The local al-Qaeda franchise, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, has vowed to make a comeback in areas it once held before the US and its local allies pushed it out.

    Diyala governor dies

    Seperately, Hisham al-Hayali, the governor of Iraq's Diyala province died along with his son in a car accident on Saturday, Samira al-Shibli, his media adviser said.

    Hayali, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is part of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition, became governor earlier this year.

    Described only as a "car accident", al-Shibli said, "The governor, along with his son, died in a car accident on the way to Suleimaniyah, while his wife and two daughters were injured." 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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