Three religious figures shot dead in Iraq

May 18 2005

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BAGHDAD, May 17: Unidentified men assassinated three religious figures in Baghdad on Tuesday in an escalating wave of violence that authorities fear is aimed at sparking civil war. Al Qaeda’s wing in Iraq warned Iraq’s Sunnis to take no part in drafting a new constitution, in another sign militants are trying to fuel sectarian tensions.

Guerillas shot two Shi’ite clerics in Baghdad on Tuesday. Mani Hassan, a member of a leading religious party, was killed outside his house, and Muwaffaq Mansour was ambushed in his car.

The body of Hassan Nuaimi, a member of the Sunni Muslim Clerics Association, was also found in Baghdad on Tuesday, a da after the group accused the Iraqi government of state terrorism and ignoring the killings of Sunnis. More than 400 people have been killed since Iraq’s new government was announced three weeks ago. Most of the dead were killed by a surge in suicide bombings. In another assassination in Baghdad, gunmen killed Alaidin al Ubaidi, an engineer working for the Commission on Public Integrity, which probes corruption in Iraq.

AL QAEDA WARNING: In a bid to defuse the anti-US resistance, Shia and Kurdish leaders have pledged to give Sunnis an important role in politics despite their low representation in parliament.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said on Monday after a meeting with Ayatollah Sistani that the moderate Shia spiritual leader had urged a key role for Sunnis in drafting the constitution. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also said during a visit to Iraq that Sunnis had to be included.—Reuters