BAGHDAD, (AP) – Gunmen killed a Sunni cleric early Wednesday, spraying him with bullets outside a Baghdad mosque where he had just finished leading morning prayers, officials said.
Sheik Ghazi Jabouri was gunned down in a hail of automatic-weapons fire outside the al-Rahman mosque in the primarily Sunni-neighborhood of Azamiyah in north Baghdad at about 5 a.m., a police officer said. An army officer confirmed the report.
Both men spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
They said witnesses reported seeing a group of gunmen on foot, but could not say exactly how many were involved.
It was not known why the 48-year-old imam was targeted, but authorities are worried al-Qaida in Iraq or other extremists might try to re-ignite sectarian violence following the March 7 parliamentary election.
The vote produced no clear winner, leading to prolonged negotiations over the next government.
At the cleric’s funeral later in the morning, worshippers — including one whose clothes were still stained with blood — said prayers by Jabouri’s simple wooden coffin, before hoisting it on their shoulders and carrying it to a nearby cemetery for burial.
Elsewhere in the capital, a high-ranking police officer was killed when a so-called “sticky bomb” on his car exploded as he drove to work, an Interior Ministry official said.
The official said that in addition to killing Brig. Gen. Arkan Ali, who served on the ministry’s anti-terrorism force, the explosion in western Baghdad’s al-Nisoor Square also injured four bystanders, a traffic policeman and another ministry official who was in the car.
A local police officer confirmed the report. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.