Sunni Iraqi MPs boycott parliament after tribal chief killed
Iraqi Sunni lawmakers on Sunday they were boycotting parliament after the killing of a senior tribal leader was blamed on Shiite militia, sparking fresh tensions between the two communities.
Baghdad: Iraqi Sunni lawmakers on Sunday they were boycotting parliament after the killing of a senior tribal leader was blamed on Shiite militia, sparking fresh tensions between the two communities.
The boycott comes weeks after suspected Shiite gunmen in January killed three Sunni clerics in Basra, a majority Shiite southern province, triggered outrage in a country mired in sectarian violence.
Sheikh Qassem Sweidan al-Janabi, his son and seven bodyguards were killed by gunmen after their convoy was ambushed late Friday in Baghdad, with most shot in the head, members of his tribe have said.
Janabi's nephew, MP Zeid al-Janabi, was with the group when they were ambushed but was later released unharmed.
The boycott by Sunni lawmakers - who hold 73 seats in the 328-strong parliament - was announced in a statement posted on the official Facebook page of Sunni parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi.
Representatives of Sunni parliamentary blocs held "an extraordinary meeting late Saturday... And agreed to suspend their parliamentary activities", said the statement released after an all-night meeting.
The politicians discussed the killings and "insisted on submitting to the government a draft resolution to ban militias and criminalise sectarianism", it said.
In Iraq the word "militias" is often used to refer to armed Shiites who have been fighting alongside government forces against the Islamic State group.
Sunni MP Nahida al-Daini told AFP that Sunni lawmakers "began observing from Saturday night an open-ended" boycott of parliament.
They also set up a commission tasked with holding negotiations with other parliamentary blocs, namely the formation of Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Another Sunni MP, Ghazi al-Kuoud, said commission would aim "to put pressure on the prime minister to ban militias" and halt crime.
"We are not prepared to be partners with a government that cannot protect its citizens," he said, calling for Janabi's killers to be identified and prosecuted.
Friday's killings were not claimed by any group, but Abu Qusay, a cousin of Sheikh Janabi, accused "armed militias backed by some sides of the government" - a reference to Shiite militias.