FALLUJA, Iraq, (Reuters) – Gunmen shot dead a member of Iraq’s government-backed Sunni Sahwa militia and four members of his family near Falluja west of Baghdad on Thursday, police said.
Khudhair Hamad Suaood was a local leader in Falluja of the Sahwa, or Sons of Iraq, a militia made up of former Sunni insurgents who swapped sides to fight al Qaeda and helped turn the tide of Iraq’s sectarian war.
Sahwa militiamen and members of the Iraqi security forces are regularly targeted by a stubborn insurgency that remains entrenched in some areas of Iraq.
Overall violence has dropped sharply since the height of sectarian bloodshed in 2006/07, but tensions are running high after a March 7 parliamentary election that produced no clear winner and has yet to yield a government.
Police said Suaood was killed along with his wife and three other members of his family when gunmen attacked his home south of Falluja overnight. A son, aged six, was seriously wounded, a relative said.
“We found him lying in the front garden, covered in blood with bullets holes in his chest and legs, but he was alive and his weapon was lying next to him,” said Jassim Muhammad, a cousin of Suaood. Suaood died minutes later.
Police blamed the killings on al Qaeda.
Falluja, 50 km (35 miles) west of Baghdad, is part of Iraq’s turbulent western desert province of Anbar, once a hotbed of Sunni Islamist insurgents.