FALLUJAH: A funeral is to be held on Wednesday for an Iraqi Sunni MP killed by a suicide bomber who wrapped his arms around the lawmaker before blowing himself up, as a political crisis engulfed Iraq.
The killing of Ayfan Saadun al-Essawi on Tuesday came 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 passed near where Tuesday's attack took place.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but militants often target officials and high-profile individuals in a bid to destabilise the government and push the country back towards the bloodshed that raged from 2005 to 2008.
Essawi's killing is likely to further enflame tensions, with Iraq already grappling with a political crisis pitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki against Essawi's.
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 lawmaker's office chief. “He came to him, hugged him, said Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), and blew himself up.”
Assem al-Hamdani, a doctor at Fallujah hospital, put the overall death toll at seven dead -- Essawi, four of his bodyguards and two civilians. Another six were wounded, including four of the lawmaker's guards.
Three days of mourning were declared in Anbar province.
Essawi was also a former leader of the Sahwa, a collection of tribal militias that turned against al Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006, helping 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 Baghda's Umm al-Qura mosque in 2011.
One MP voiced fears the killing could further raise tensions.
“It aggravates the political conflict,” independent Kurdish MP Mahmud Othman told AFP. “I hope these crimes and incidents will urge political leaders to meet and try to find a solution, because there is no other way.