NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) -Hundreds of mourners turned out to bury an assassinated provincial Shiite governor and police chief on Sunday, as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered an investigation into their killings.
Iraqi police and soldiers tightly guarded the centre of the holy Shiite city of Najaf, where the governor and police chief of the neighbouring province of Qadisiyah were to be buried one day after their deaths, an AFP reporter said.
Hundreds of mourners walked behind the funeral cortege to the revered Imam Ali mausoleum before their bodies would be taken to the cemetery, considered sacred burial ground for millions of Shiites.
Qadisiyah governor, Khalil Jalil Hamza, belonged to the Shiite Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council party that sits in Maliki’s ruling coalition, while police chief Khalid Hassan was considered a political independent.
Carrying Iraqi flags and posters of the country’s revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the mourners set out from the Shiite Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council offices, joined by governorate and political officials.
In Baghdad, Maliki’s office mourned the passing of Hamza and Hassan, who were killed in a bomb attack with three of their security guards on Saturday, and announced that an investigation into their deaths was underway.
“We have issued orders for an investigation into this criminal act and for those who carried out this cruel crime to be detained so that justice can be done,” it said in a statement.
President Jalal Talabani blamed extremists flushed out of notorious Sunni flashpoints by Iraqi and US forces continuing a six-month-old security crackdown for what he labelled a “cowardly terrorist act.”
“They have committed a crime in a secure part of our country after they were besieged and kicked out of Anbar, Diyala and Samarra,” his office said.
The governor and police chief were killed while returning to the provincial capital Diwaniyah after attending a funeral in the town of Afak.
Diwaniyah has been a flashpoint for rival Shiite factions battling for supremacy in the region, and has also regularly seen heavy clashes between Shiite militiamen and US and Iraqi security forces.
Hassan, who came from Baghdad, had only been in his post for a week.