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Iraq: Assailants attack house of leading Sunni cleric - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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An Iraqi policeman checks a car at a checkpoint in Baghdad on December 16, 2013, as attacks continued to strike in and around the city. Violence in Iraq reached a level this year not seen since 2008, when the country was emerging from a brutal period of sectarian bloodshed. (AFP Photo/Ali Al-Saadi)

An Iraqi policeman checks a car at a checkpoint in Baghdad on December 16, 2013, as attacks continued to strike in and around the city. (AFP Photo/Ali Al-Saadi)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Unknown gunmen attacked the house of leading Iraqi Sunni cleric Abdul Malik Al-Saadi on Sunday, one day after he called for a boycott of upcoming parliamentary elections, dismissing them as “illegitimate” in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.

According to eyewitnesses from the area, an unknown number of men armed with machine guns attacked the cleric’s house in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, but no casualties were reported.

Ramadi security forces rushed to the scene and tightened security near the house.

“Al-Saadi’s family were in the house when the attack took place, but no one was hurt,” security officials said.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Commenting on the attack, the head of Anbar Tribal Council, Sheikh Hamid Al-Shuka, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Saadi’s position on anti-terror and Iraq’s unity are well-known. And thus he and other leading men of Iraq must be a target for the parties that do not wish the country well.”

“There are well-known parties in the province who over the past year and the present one were pushing Saadi to issue a fatwa allowing the establishment of a Sunni region, something which he absolutely rejected,” Shuka said.

Shuka, who did not lay blame for the incident on any party, said that the attack was “politically motivated.”

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Nawaf Al-Mar’awi, a member of the coordinating committee of the ongoing anti-government sit-in protest in Ramadi, accused “government-supported Iranian militias of being behind the attack,” which he said “comes within the framework of a declared war on Sunni people and their symbols.”

“The attack was not only against Saadi but we have noticed this series of attacks has affected everyone,” he said, adding that clerics, tribal sheikhs, national icons, employees and military and police personnel have been previously targeted. “No one has an interest in this but Iran and its followers,” he said.

Saadi’s comments on the illegitimacy of the elections fueled anger in Iraq.

A spokesman for Motahedoun coalition, which is led by Iraqi parliamentary speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, said that Saadi’s remarks about the illegitimacy of the elections were not binding on his followers.

Elsewhere, Iraq’s Sunni Mufti Sheikh Rafeh Al-Rifai said that Iraqis were required to participate in the parliamentary elections in order to ensure that “the corrupt [do not] come once again to power and exploit their posts for personal and partisan purposes which are removed from voters’ aspirations.”