Iraqi Lawmakers Halt Parliament Activities After Tribal Leader’s Killing

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Sunday, February 15, 2015

Iraq's two main parliamentary lists suspended their activities on Saturday in protest at the killing of a prominent tribal leader and the kidnapping of a member of parliament the night before.

On Friday, Sheikh Qassem al-Janabi and his son were shot dead along with at least six guards after gunmen stopped their convoy in south Baghdad. Janabi and his bodyguards were shot in the head, while his son was killed by a bullet to the chest.

The sheikh's nephew, parliamentarian Zayed al-Janabi, was detained but later released.

The Interior Ministry said it would investigate the incident, which raised questions about the government's control over security in the capital, where safety measures were eased last week despite the proliferation of rival armed groups.

The attack also threatened to exacerbate the sectarian tensions that have undermined Iraq's response to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents who seized large swathes of territory in the country's north and west in August.

"The Iraqiya Alliance and the National Coalition announce they are suspending their participation in sessions of the Council of Representatives," lawmaker Ahmed al-Massari said in a statement broadcast on local television on Saturday.

Lawmakers said the boycott would include all of the roughly 75 lawmakers in the two lists.

The statement blamed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his ministers of defense and interior for "the breakdown of security and letting loose killers and outlaws to commit crimes of ethnic cleansing."

No group has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack, but Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq called for the eradication of militia groups, which operate freely in much of Iraq and have spearheaded the battle against ISIS since the army nearly collapsed last summer.

"We must get rid of the militias, and weapons must be in the hands of the state," he told reporters before the victims were buried on Saturday.

"They want to bring down ... the voice of every patriot. This is a message we must understand: to take a stand against the militias and the outlaws."

Janabi had recently called for residents to return to Jurf al-Sakhr, an area south of Baghdad which government forces backed by militias recaptured from ISIS in late October.

The capture of Jurf al-Sakhr by ISIS had posed a threat to both Baghdad and the Shia shrine city of Karbala, which millions of pilgrims visit each year.

Janabi, who was born in 1952, was arrested by US troops in 2004, a year after the US-led invasion of Iraq, and served more than two years in prison.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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