Violence In Iraq Takes A Political Turn Samir Safwat al-Hadithi, a 60-year-old lawyer and politician, was the victim of unknown gunmen who had apparently been lying in wait. He became the third member of his political party to be assassinated in a month in killings that seem to mark a new chapter in Iraq's struggle for stability.
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Violence In Iraq Takes A Political Turn

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Violence In Iraq Takes A Political Turn

Violence In Iraq Takes A Political Turn

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Iraq enjoyed a relatively peaceful election in January - relatively. The voting did not end Iraq's killings. Members of a Sunni Muslim group called the Iraqi Islamic Party have been targeted in recent days, and the latest to die was a 60-year-old lawyer and political activist. NPR's Corey Flintoff has more.

(Soundbite of people talking)

COREY FLINTOFF: Men greet each other softly and exchange blessings as they take their places in the hall of the Ferdaws mosque. They've gathered for the funeral of Samir Safwat al-Hadithi, a Sunni politician in the largely Shiite neighborhood called Zaafariniya. Hadithi was gunned down in the street just behind this mosque by unknown assailants. He was the third member of his party to be killed in the past month.

The Islamic Party's Web site says Hadithi's killers were trying to reignite sectarian violence. The murdered man's cousin, Maher Delli Ibrahim al-Hadithi, says the victim was a man who worked for reconciliation.

Mr. MAHER DELLI IBRAHIM AL-HADITHI: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Maher Hadithi, who is Iraq's culture minister, says his cousin used to hold meetings at his house, bringing his neighborhood Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds together to talk about Iraqi unity.

Mr. HADITHI: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Hadithi is not willing to accuse anyone specifically in his cousin's murder. He insists that Samir had no personal enemies. But he says, ruefully, all the good people are targeted.

Ahmed Abyadh, the political analyst in Baghdad, says the Islamic Party has been a target of sectarian violence in the past, but he believes the latest attacks are political, suggesting that Hadithi was killed by Sunni rivals.

Mr. AHMED ABYADH (Political analyst, Baghdad): (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says the provincial elections showed that parties like the Islamic Party can no longer claim to be the main representatives of one sect or another, so now they're struggling for power among themselves. Abyadh also suggests that foreign powers, such as Iran or Syria, may have a hand in trying to shift political influence to their surrogates in Iraq.

It's not clear why Samir Hadithi would specifically have been targeted. His Islamic Party lost strength in the provincial elections, especially in Iraq's western Anbar province, where they fell behind Sunni tribal groups and a moderate secular party. Samir's wife, Basima al-Hadithi, lost in her bid for a seat on Baghdad's provincial council.

Another of Hadithi's relatives, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein al-Bayati, had tears in his eyes as he spoke of the murdered men.

Sheikh MUHAMMAD HUSSEIN AL-BAYATI (Relative of Samir Hadithi): (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Bayati called on the Iraqi government to investigate the killings, and to strike with an iron hand at the criminals behind them.

More visitors arrive for the funeral, meeting friends in the courtyard of the mosque, now lined with armored cars and armed security men, here to protect the mourners.

(Soundbite of music)

FLINTOFF: Except for the amplified funeral readings from the Quran, the neighborhood is quiet. While no one officially has been blamed for the shooting, some young men in the area appeared happy about it. When NPR reporters visited the area on the evening of the attack, they met the men, sitting near the entrance to Samir Hadithi's street. When asked about the shooting, the men laughed.

Samir Safwat al-Hadithi is survived by his wife, a son and four daughters.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Baghdad.

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