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Anti-al-Qaeda leader escapes assassination in Iraq

Tuesday, September 03, 2013    

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — A prominent leader of a militia opposed to al-Qaeda escaped an assassination attempt Monday that killed six of his bodyguards and one civilian and wounded eight people, authorities said. Seven more people were killed and 15 wounded in separate violence in Baghdad and another Iraqi city as the country reels from waves of sectarian attacks.

Two suicide bombers attacked the motorcade of Wisam al-Hardan near his house in Baghdad's western Harthiyah neighbourhood, but the Sunni tribal sheik was not hurt, said Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan.

Al-Hardan was recently appointed by the Iraqi prime minister to lead the Sunni militia known as Sahwa, which joined US troops in the war against al-Qaeda at the height of the Iraq war. Ever since, it has been a target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors.

Later in the day, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a security checkpoint near the city of Baqouba, killing four people and wounding 12, said police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. Baqouba, a former al-Qaeda stronghold, is 60 kilometres (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

In southeastern Baghdad, police gunmen using weapons fitted with silencers opened fire on a commercial street, killing two people and wounding three, said a different police official who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the media. It was not immediately clear why the officers opened fire.

And in Baghdad's western Baiyaa area, a man was shot dead as he walked near his home, the police official said.

Most attacks on civilians and security forces in recent years have been the work of Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaeda. But attacks on Sunni targets have been on the rise in recent months, raising fears that armed Shiite groups are starting to retaliate.

Violence in Iraq has intensified since April to levels not seen since 2008. More than 4,000 people have been killed over the past five months, according to figures provided by the UN mission in Iraq.

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